The Tampa Bay Lightning will look to take a 3-1 lead in their best-of-seven Second Round series against the New York Islanders tonight in Game 4 at the Barclays Center.
And there’s a chance they’ll have a bit more help to accomplish that feat.
Erik Condra (upper-body injury) and Matt Carle (undisclosed injury) both were full participants Thursday with the Bolts during their training session at the New Jersey Devils’ Prudential Center. Condra practiced ahead of Game 3 and proclaimed himself “ready” but was held out of the Bolts’ 5-4 overtime win.
For Carle, Thursday was his first time joining his teammates since being injured in Game 1 on April 27. Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said the pair will be re-evaluated today before determining whether either can suit up tonight.
“They looked okay in practice,” Cooper said. “Hopefully we’ll get word that everybody’s available.”
Steven Stamkos (recovering from surgery), Anton Stralman (non-displaced fracture of left fibula) and J.T. Brown (upper-body injury) continue to be sidelined. Stamkos and Stralman did not practice with the team on Thursday. Brown came onto the ice as the rest of the Lightning were finishing up and did some stickhandling work using a full-size stick for the first time since getting injured blocking a shot in Game 2 of the First Round Detroit series on April 15.
DROUIN OKAY AFTER MASSIVE HIT
Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey unloaded on Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin during the second period of Game 3, the Bolts second-year-pro sent flying to the ice from a hit Drouin deemed “legal” after watching it on replay.
Drouin was forced to sit out the remainder of the second period while he underwent a series of tests to make sure he was okay. Drouin passed the tests multiple times and was back on the Lightning bench for the start of the third period.
Late in regulation, Drouin supplied the pivotal assist on the game-tying goal that eventually led to the Lightning’s come-from-behind victory.
Following Thursday’s training session, Drouin reiterated he was okay and ready to go for Game 4.
“We did the tests, and everything was good,” Drouin said. “I felt fine and decided to go back out there and compete.”
Cooper said the hit probably looked a lot worse than what it was.
“He showed a lot of resiliency coming back, and he’s a big reason we pushed that game to overtime.”
The Islanders ramped up the physicality in Game 3 and laid a number of massive hits during the game. The Lightning reciprocated, and Drouin said he expects more of the same in Game 4.
“I think that’s the way they want to play us,” he said. “It’s the same way with their skill players, you’ve got to be physical on them, and they see it the same way.”
As aggressively as the Islanders pursued a victory in Game 3, the Lightning say they’re expecting an even bigger push tonight from the Isles, who would be up against the wall if they were to drop both games at home and fall into a 3-1 hole in the series.
“We know they’re going to be treating it as a must-win game,” Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop said. “We know they’re going to come out hard, and it’s just going to be important to play our game and kind of do what we do right and not really worry about them and take care of business.”
It will be imperative for the Lightning to get off to a better start than they did in Game 3, when the Islanders outshot the Bolts 17-9 and had a number of open looks at goal from the slot only to be stymied by the brilliance of Bishop.
“I think we knew them being at home in Brooklyn in front of their home fans they were going to come out and they were going to give us their best.” Bolts forward Alex Killorn said. “I think we did a good job managing, and I think we could have played a little bit better. We knew they were going to come out strong, but you have to fight back through that. I think we expect the same from them (Friday) night. We just have to have a little bit better of a first period.”
Playing smarter and safer in the early stages will be the key to the Bolts getting off to a better start in Game 4.
“I think on the road you always say you want to play simple, and I think in the playoffs you always want to start simple, get pucks behind their D, just make smart plays and as the game progresses you can kind of make some trickier plays,” Killorn said. “The first period and the first few shifts are really important to get into the game.”
ODDS AND ENDS
The Lightning are a perfect 10-0 since the beginning of the 2015 playoffs in games when Tyler Johnson scores a goal…Tampa Bay has never lost a road playoff game to the Islanders (3-0 all-time)…The Bolts will attempt to win three-straight playoff games for the first time this postseason and first time since winning the opening three games of a Second Round series versus Montreal in 2015…With three points (1 goal, 2 assists) in Game 3, Bolts blueliner Victor Hedman matched a franchise record for points in a playoff game by a defenseman set by Eric Brewer in Game 2 of the 2011 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals at Pittsburgh. Hedman has six points (2 goals, 4 assists) so far in the Islanders series.