The Islanders and Lightning wrap up their season series tonight in Tampa Bay. The series is currently tied at three points apiece, as the road team has claimed a shootout win in each of the previous two matchups.
Both teams have undergone a facelift since their January 16 meeting and are icing significantly different lineups tonight. The Lightning dealt captain Martin St. Louis at the trade deadline (for New York Rangers captain Ryan Callahan), but will have Steven Stamkos, who skates against the Islanders for the first time this season. The Islanders bring a young squad to Tampa Bay, as they are currently carrying nine rookies, four of which are set to skate against the Lightning for the first time tonight.
The Islanders seek their third straight win and are 13-4-1 in their last 18 road games. The Lightning have points in nine straight games, but are on a two-game winless streak.
With John Tavares out for the season with a knee injury, the battle of the 2008-09 first-overall picks is postponed until next season, as Stamkos missed the previous two games with a broken leg.
Ahead of tonight’s game, both teams held an optional morning skate at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Here are some news, notes and quotes from today’s skates.
Road Record: The Islanders have won two straight on the road and are 13-4-1 in their last 18 away from Nassau Coliseum.
Penalty Kill: The Islanders penalty kill went two-for-four against the Hurricanes on Tuesday, but killed a crucial minor in the final five minutes of the third. The Lightning’s power play has converted nine of its last 29 opportunities, so the shorthanded unit will need to be in top form.
Hot Hands: Cal Clutterbuck has four goals in his last six games. The Islanders are 8-2-1 when Clutterbuck scores.
Matt Martin on playing with Ryan Strome: He’s a guy that can carry the puck in and make something happen on offense. I don’t think we are trying to force it, but if it’s available we want to get him the puck. Once we get in the zone, the first thing we think about is where he is on the ice. We want to get him the puck, open up some room for him and give him some space.
We want to be physical and give him some space. If anything happens, or something dirty happens, he has two big linemates ready to stick up for him.
Stamkos: Stamkos faces off against the Islanders for the first time this season, as the Markham, ON, native missed 45 games this season with a broken leg. Stamkos has been the game’s top goal scorer since the 2009-10 season, having scored 206 goals en route to two Rocket Richard Trophies. The Lightning captain has 21 goals in 27 games this season, which would have put him on pace for 63 in a full 82-game schedule.
Stamkos on overcoming his injury: I’m feeling good. It’s getting better each time I am on the ice. It’s definitely not where I want it to be, as that will take some time – probably another summer of training – before it feels good. It’s a mental thing right now, going into certain areas of the ice and not really worrying about it as much as I have in the previous couple of weeks. It’s getting to where I thought I would be.
Stamkos on Islanders: We know it’s going to be another close game tonight. These guys aren’t in the playoff mix, but they’ve been playing some good hockey as of late. Those are the teams you have to really be cautious of down the stretch. They have a lot of young guys in the lineup that are auditioning for next year. They are going to play hard.
Capuano on Tavares, Stamkos: There are a lot of comparisons. They have a little different offensive side to their game, but as far as leadership, character, work ethic and how they prepare for every game, that’s what makes them great players. It’s how they train in the offseason. They make their teams’ go, 91 makes our team go and [Stamkos] makes their team go.