NEW YORK ISLANDERS (39-24-9) VS. TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING (42-26-5)
7:30 P.M. AMALIE ARENA, MSG+, WNYE 91.5 FM, WRHU 88.7 FM, LI NEWS 103.9 FM
1. ISLES-LIGHTNING II:
The New York Islanders lead the season series with the Tampa Bay Lightning 1-0, having beaten the Lightning 3-2 on Nov. 28. The Lightning jumped out to a 2-0 advantage, but the Islanders scored three unanswered goals in the comeback win. John Tavares sealed the game on a power play with 3:36 to play in the third period, but Thomas Greiss was the first star, stopping 29-of-31 shots – including a Steven Stamkos penalty shot – for the win.
2. WHAT IT MEANS:
The Islanders can reclaim third place in the Metropolitan Division with a win on Friday. The Islanders are one point back of the Pittsburgh Penguins with a game in hand and can leapfrog them with a win in Tampa.
Entering Friday, the Islanders (87 points) are two points ahead of the Detroit Red Wings (85 points) with two games in hand and are four points ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers, who are looking to supplant either team for a playoff spot. If the playoffs started today, the Islanders would play the Florida Panthers in the first round.
The Lightning (89 points) are in second place in the Atlantic Division, two points back of the Florida Panthers with a game in hand. A win would propel them ahead of the Panthers, as they hold the wins tiebreaker.
3. GREISS IN GOAL:
Thomas Greiss will start in goal for the Islanders on Friday night in Tampa Bay.
Greiss is 19-10-4 this season with a 2.29 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage, which is the third highest SV% in the NHL. The 30-year-old is looking to snap a three-game losing streak and Northern Florida might be the place to do so. Greiss won his previous trip to Tampa Bay, stopping 29-of-31 shots in the win, including a penalty shot with one of the game’s best scorers, Steven Stamkos.
Friday’s game kicks off a back-to-back set for the Islanders, meaning that JF Berube will likely start on Saturday night in Carolina.
Greiss is the only change to the Islanders’ lineup, as Capuano is icing the same skaters.
4. BEN BISHOP:
Tampa Bay’s offense carried them last season, but this season, goaltender Ben Bishop has been a big part of the Lightning’s success. Bishop is 31-19-4 this season and is second in the NHL in goals-against average (2.02), save percentage (.928) and shutouts (5). Add up all those number twos and he could be number one at the end of the season in Vezina Trophy voting for the league’s top netminder.
At 6-foot-7, Bishop takes up a ton of net and is one of the biggest goalies in the league. He’s got big-time experience, having taken the Lightning to the Stanley Cup Finals last season, and is getting hot at the right time. Bishop has two shutouts in his last four games, going 3-1-0 over that span.
5. LIGHTNING STRIKES:
After leading the NHL in goals last season (262, or 3.2 per game), the Tampa Bay Lightning’s potent offense has taken a step back this season. The Lightning are 10th in the NHL in goals for this season (202, or 2.8 per game) and have the fewest goals of the three playoff-bound teams in the Atlantic Division.
Ondrej Palat (14G, 16A) and Tyler Johnson (12G, 23A) are both well below the scoring pace they set last season and are on pace for their worst offensive output as NHLers. Palat is coming around with five points (3G, 2A) in his last five games, but Johnson has gone eight games without a goal and has just one goal in his last 10.
Steven Stamkos leads the Lightning a team-high 34 goals and 60 points including eight points (5G, 3A) in his last five games.