NEW YORK ISLANDERS (42-26-9) VS. TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING (45-28-5)
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The Islanders and Lightning meet for the third and final time this regular season and for the second time in just over a week.
The season series is tied 1-1, but the Islanders are looking to make amends for a 7-4 loss in Tampa Bay on March 25. The seven goals against were a season-high for the Islanders.
WHAT IT MEANS:
The Islanders are inching closer to securing a playoff berth, as their magic number has dropped to four, meaning that two wins, or one win and a Boston Bruins loss, will get New York into the postseason.
The Islanders currently occupy the first wild-card position, meaning they would play the winner of the Atlantic Division, which is currently the Florida Panthers. The Tampa Bay Lightning are challenging the Panthers for that top spot in the Atlantic and are currently two points back.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have lost their leading scorer.
Steven Stamkos will be out for the next 1-3 months with a blood clot in his right arm, the team announced on Saturday. The Lightning captain led his team in goals (36) and was tied with Nikita Kucherov with 64 points.
It’s a big blow to the Lightning, as Stamkos will miss at least the first round of the playoffs, which are set to begin on April 13. Last season, Stamkos has 18 points (7G, 11A) as the Lightning reached the Stanley Cup Final.
The Lightning are also currently without defenseman Anton Stralman, who suffered a fractured left leg against the Islanders on March 25. He is expected to miss at least the first round of the playoffs.
Casey Cizikas and Jean-Francois Berube took maintenance days on Sunday, not skating with the team at practice.
“We’ll have a better idea where they are at tomorrow,” Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “At this time of year you have some bumps and bruises, you just hope it’s not too serious.”
Cizikas has a career-high 26 points (7G, 19A) this season including three game-winning goals. He’s a heart-and-soul player for the Islanders, making up one third of a highly-effective fourth line. He also kills penalties, leading all Islanders’ forwards with 2:09 minutes per game.
Jack Capuano did not name his starter for Monday night, but if Berube is healthy, expect him to play in one of the Islanders back-to-back games (the Islanders play in Washington on Tuesday).