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Islanders-Lightning Preview @NHL
Islanders-Lightning Preview

GAME: New York Islanders (10-9-0) at Tampa Bay Lightning (8-9-3).

TIME: Thursday, 7:30 p.m. EST.

It took the first six weeks of the season, but the New York Islanders finally seem to have found their scoring touch.

They'll look to extend a season-high three-game winning streak when they face the Tampa Bay Lightning for the first time since the first round of the 2004 playoffs.

After scoring more than four goals twice in their first 16 games, the Islanders have scored at least four in two of their last three contests.

Shawn Bates and Miroslav Satan each had two goals in New York's 7-3 victory at Atlanta on Wednesday - its highest scoring game of the season.

Jason Blake, Trent Hunter and Arron Asham also scored for the Islanders, who have 15 goals during their win streak. They have won four of five overall to move above .500 for the first time since Oct. 25.

The line of Bates, Blake and Hunter has eight goals in the past three games.

"Blake played a great game and has been playing well," Islanders coach Steve Stirling said. "That whole line has been performing well. They play against other top lines and shut them down while scoring goals."

Bates is one of New York's hottest players with six of his eight goals this season coming in the past five games. He is one shy of his total from 2003-04.

"I'm getting some good scoring chances," Bates said. "I'm playing with confidence and it helps when you get good chances."

Backup goalie Garth Snow got a rare start Wednesday and responded with 39 saves. With games on back-to-back nights, Rick DiPietro figures to be back in net for the Islanders on Thursday.

The Lightning have been one of the league's most disappointing teams, sitting one game under .500 excluding overtime losses.

The defending champions lost six straight before ending the skid with a 5-2 victory over Philadelphia on Monday. Tampa Bay appeared headed for its second consecutive win the next night, but Washington's Alexander Ovechkin scored with 1:15 left in regulation and was the only player to connect in the shootout, lifting the Capitals to a 4-3 victory.

"I thought we did a lot of good things," Lightning coach John Tortorella said. "We had our chances to score, and we need to score some goals. And we need some saves; that last play against Ovechkin, we need a save there. But we got three points out of a possible four, and with our schedule, we are just looking to pick up points."

With 2003-04 NHL MVP Martin St. Louis sidelined at least three weeks with a broken finger, center Vinny Prospal has helped fill the void. Prospal recorded a hat trick against Philadelphia and has eight goals and 11 assists during an 11-game points streak.

This is the first meeting between the teams since the Lightning eliminated the Islanders in five games in the first round of the 2003-04 playoffs en route to their first Stanley Cup.

STANDINGS (through Nov. 16): Islanders - 20 points, 3rd place, 5 PB, Atlantic Division. Lightning - 19 points, 2nd place, 8 PB, Southeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Islanders - Satan, 11 goals; Alexei Zhitnik, 13 assists; Alexei Yashin, 21 points; Janne Niinimaa, 44 PIM. Lightning - Prospal, 13 goals, 16 assists and 29 points; Pavel Kubina, 36 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Nov. 16): Islanders - Power play: 16.2 percent (20 for 123), 22nd in NHL. Penalty killing: 82.9 percent (117 for 141), 17th. Lightning - Power play: 13.2 percent (17 for 128), 26th. Penalty killing: 82.7 percent (89 for 107), 11th.

GOALTENDERS: Islanders - DiPietro (7-7-0, 0 SO, 3.21 GAA); Snow (3-2, 3.53). Lightning - John Grahame (6-8-1, 1, 2.97); Sean Burke (2-0-2, 1.87).

2003-04 SEASON SERIES: Islanders, 2-1.

LAST MEETING: April 17; Lightning, 3-2, (OT). At Tampa, Fla., St. Louis scored 4:07 into overtime in Game 5 of the opening round of the playoffs as Tampa Bay eliminated New York.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Islanders - 5-6-0 on the road; Lightning - 4-4-1 at home.

Associated Press

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