The Lightning's string of "playoff type games" continues tonight when they welcome the New York Islanders to the St. Pete Times Forum. After a well-deserved recovery day yesterday, the team got back on the ice today for morning skate. The skate was a tad longer than usual today after the down time coming off the trip.
The Lightning come into tonight's game 7-1-2 in their previous 10 games at the Times Forum and seem to be getting in the swing of things at the right time. In those 10 home games they have outscored the opposition 27-18. On top of that, the Bolts have allowed the fewest goals at home this season with 55. The team will try and carry that home ice advantage into tonight's contest.
Antero Niittymaki once again gets the start in goal. He has won five of his previous seven games and is unbeaten in regulation in his last five starts, posting a 4-0-1 record with a 0.95 goals-against average and a .967 save percentage.
Head Coach Rick Tocchet talked today about the plethora of options he has in the face off circle. He said he doesn't decide who takes a given draw based on stats, but more on the ice time each guy has played at that point. In Tocchet's opinion, players who are fresh are better at taking draws. Needless to say, he has a number of options from Vincent Lecavalier, Jeff Halpern, Zenon Konopka, Steven Stamkos to Nate Thompson.
Speaking of Thompson, he'll be playing his first game against the Islanders since the Lightning claimed him off waivers from New York on January 21. He says he enjoyed his time on the Island but has really enjoyed his time with the Bolts so far. The Lightning have enjoyed his presence as well. From face offs to defense, he has been a welcome addition. As a testament to his play, Tocchet put him on the ice against Alex Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk in the previous two games. Thompson has blocked shots and gotten the puck out at key times.
The team is scheduled to practice tomorrow before taking on the Calgary Flames on Saturday.