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Lightning eye first place in Atlantic

Tampa Bay hosts Islanders, trail Panthers by two points in division

by Corey Long / Correspondent

ISLANDERS (39-24-9) at LIGHTNING (42-26-5)

TV: 7:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, TVA Sports, MSG+, SUN

TAMPA -- The Tampa Bay Lightning will try to keep pace at the top of the Atlantic Division when they play the New York Islanders on Friday at Amalie Arena.

Tampa Bay trails the Florida Panthers by two points for first place in the division. The Lightning, who have a game in hand, and Panthers play Saturday at Amalie Arena.

The Islanders snapped a four-game losing streak with a 3-1 win against the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday. New York holds the first wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.

Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said Tampa Bay has to follow up from its 6-2 win against the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday.

"(The Islanders) are a very hungry team and they are in the middle of a playoff fight," Stamkos said. "Every point is key. One day you're in a wild-card spot and if you have a good weekend you can be competing for the division."

Stamkos said playing these meaningful games down the stretch should keep the Lightning mentally focused.

"When you are playing games that have playoff implications it should only help you," Stamkos said. "These games are so important that we know we have to stay sharp and stick to our structure.

Forwards Ryan Callahan and Valtteri Filppula remain sidelined.

The Islanders are 1-3-1 in their past five games and have scored seven goals during that span. Forward John Tavares said the effort Wednesday should give the team confidence going into back-to-back road games this weekend. New York plays the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday.

"We know we have to continue to take care of business and it takes 82 games to get there," Tavares said. "We know we have to continue to fight for every point until the end because there's a lot at stake including home ice."

Coach Jack Capuano said his team deserves a lot of credit for fighting through injuries and changes in the lineup.

"We've played some good teams with, not a depleted lineup, but guys that are getting minutes that they normally wouldn't get," Capuano said. "Shane [Prince] came over from Ottawa and he wasn't in their lineup and now he's getting 11-12 minutes a night. It's good for our young guys and our young goaltenders."

Lightning goalie Ben Bishop sees the Islanders as a fast, aggressive team that could break out of their scoring slump at any time.

"They are a dangerous team and they are pretty deadly if you give them time and space," Bishop said. "Tavares is one of the top players in the world and [Kyle] Okposo isn't far behind. And they are fighting for their playoff lives so they won't be loafing around the ice."

Here are the projected lineups: 


Josh Bailey - John Tavares - Ryan Strome

Nikolay Kulemin - Frans Nielsen - Kyle Okposo

Shane Prince - Brock Nelson - Anders Lee

Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Cal Clutterbuck

Nick Leddy - Johnny Boychuk

Calvin de Haan - Travis Hamonic

Thomas Hickey - Ryan Pulock

Thomas Greiss

Jean-Francois Berube

Injured: Adam Pelech, Marek Zidlicky (upper body), Jaroslav Halak (groin), Mikhail Grabovski (upper body)

Scratched: Brian Strait, Steve Bernier


Alex Killorn - Steven Stamkos - Nikita Kucherov

Ondrej Palat - Tyler Johnson - Jonathan Marchessault

Cedric Paquette - Vladislav Namestnikov - J.T. Brown

Erik Condra - Brian Boyle

Victor Hedman - Anton Stralman

Jason Garrison - Andrej Sustr

Nikita Nesterov - Braydon Coburn

Matthew Carle

Ben Bishop

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Injured: Valtteri Filppula (upper body), Ryan Callahan (lower body)

Scratched: Mike Blunden

Status report: Filppula and Callahan participated in morning skate wearing grey jerseys. Both have been cleared for contact. ... Capuano said he will use the same lineup as he did Wednesday.

Who's hot: Condra scored two goals against the Red Wings on Tuesday, his first goals since Dec. 5. ... Nelson scored a goal and had a plus-2 rating against the Senators on Wednesday.

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