The New York Islanders enter their game Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Lightning in search of offense they hope will end a 3-14-3 slide that's landed them at the bottom of the Metropolitan Division.
Out of the 16 goals the Islanders have scored in their past 11 games (1-7-3), 11 are from the top line of Thomas Vanek, John Tavares and Kyle Okposo. The second unit of Michael Grabner, Frans Nielsen and Josh Bailey is struggling. Grabner has no goals in 30 straight games. Nielsen has none in his past 12 after scoring 10 in his first 22. Bailey hasn't scored in 23 games.
Coach Jack Capuano kept his lines intact during the morning skate. Ryan Strome, who will play in his second NHL game, will center the Islanders' third line. Strome was recalled from Bridgeport of the American Hockey League last week after leading the AHL in points (33) and assists (24) with the idea that he'll add scoring punch. Although he went scoreless Saturday in his debut, Strome believes that it's a matter of time before the goals begin to arrive.
"There's many other things you can do to impact a game," Strome told WFAN.com. "The best players, even when they're not scoring, are doing something else. There's a lot of guys in this dressing room right now that really want that, but it's gonna come. You can't stress yourself out.
"I just want to stay strong in my own end. Obviously, the coaches preach that a lot here -- your battle level and compete level. In order to stay here, I've gotta show I can play both ends of the ice and be responsible, but I also have to start to produce."
The Islanders are 10-2-0 against the Lightning at Nassau Coliseum since 2007-08 while outscoring them 20-8. It's one reason why Tampa Bay isn't looking past New York despite its struggles.
"They're much better than their record," Lightning forward Martin St. Louis said. "For some reason, they are where they are, but not a team you can take lightly."
Evgeni Nabokov will start in goal for the Islanders. Nabokov stopped 24 of 25 shots in an overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday in his return from a groin injury. The Lightning will counter with Ben Bishop, who earned his third shutout of the season Sunday and is tied for second in the League with 17 wins.
Here are the projected lines for the Islanders and Lightning:
Ondrej Palat – Tyler Johnson – Martin St. Louis
Alex Killorn – Valtteri Filppula – Teddy Purcell
J.T. Brown – Nate Thompson – Nikita Kucherov
B.J. Crombeen – Pierre-Cedric Labrie – Richard Panik
Eric Brewer – Andrej Sustr
Matt Carle – Radko Gudas
Sami Salo – Matt Taormina
Scratched: Mark Barberio, Dana Tyrell
Injured: Brian Lee (knee surgery), Tom Pyatt (broken collarbone), Steven Stamkos (right tibia surgery), Ryan Malone (broken ankle), Keith Aulie (hand surgery), Victor Hedman (lower body)
Thomas Vanek – John Tavares – Kyle Okposo
Michael Grabner – Frans Nielsen – Josh Bailey
Brock Nelson – Ryan Strome – Cal Clutterbuck
Matt Martin – Peter Regin – Eric Boulton
Andrew MacDonald – Thomas Hickey
Travis Hamonic –Calvin de Haan
Aaron Ness – Brian Strait
Scratched: Colin McDonald, Matt Carkner
Injured: Casey Cizikas (bruised jaw), Lubomir Visnovsky (concussion), Radek Martinek (back)