EYES ON ISLES PREGAME REPORT
Tonight, the New York Islanders (18-23-7, 43 points) take on the Tampa Bay Lightning (28-15-4, 60 points) in game no. 49 of the 2013-14 NHL season. Here’s what you need to know before puck drop…
Where: Tampa Bay Times Forum, Tampa, Florida
When: Thursday, January 16th , 7:30 pm EST
Watch: MSG + (Howie Rose, Butch Goring)
Listen: 88.7 FM WRHU, 103.9 FM WRCN (Chris King)
Opposition Blog: Bolts By The Bay
The New York Islanders dropped a rough decision in their last game, falling behind the Florida Panthers in Sunrise 3-0 before succumbing eventually to a 4-2 defeat. While we all knew the streak could not last forever, but the slow starts that have plagued the team continue to rear their ugly head.
Nobody can really put a finger on why the team does not seem as prepared as they need to be from the opening puck drop. Is it coaching? Is it just a lack of intensity on the players? Could they actually be sitting back waiting for the opponent to get a jump to serve as the proverbial ‘smack in the face’ that awakens them?
Either way, its not easy to come from behind on most National Hockey League teams and if the Islanders continue to insist on doing just that, they are going to most definitely find themselves on the outside looking in when April rolls around and the playoff tournament begins.
Nobody could have missed the news yesterday that freshman Ryan Strome was sent to Bridgeport. On the Dump and Chase Podcast, Newsday’s Arthur Staple spoke at length about the Islanders decision and what it means for the future.
The other major subject that was discussed was the status of Travis Hamonic, first believed to be ill but now getting treated for a possible concussion. There could not be worse news for the Islanders, already down Lubomir Visnovsky for the past 40 games and a return not projected until just before or after the Olympic break.
But it’s onward and upward for New York and with their upcoming schedule looking very daunting, every point is precious. Tonight they try to begin a new road winning streak against the Lightning in Tampa as they wind down their season long six game road trip.
Who can forget what happened the last time these two met? A 3-2 shootout loss in which Tampa scored two goals in the final three minutes of the third period, including the tying marker in which 4 Islanders were laying in the crease doing snow angels while the puck slid in behind Evgeni Nabokov. The Islanders will look to make amends tonight.
Tampa comes in with 60 points on the season, good for a 1st place tie in the Atlantic division of the Eastern conference. After defeating the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday 2-1, the Lightning are 12th in goals per game, 6th in goals against, 21st on the power play and 19th on the penalty kill. So far at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, they have compiled a record of 14-5-2 and are 5-4-1 in their last 10 games.
The offense is led, predictably, by diminutive captain Martin St.Louis. The veteran who never seems to age is up to 20-24-44 in 47 games. Signed from Detroit in the off-season, Valtteri Filppula is second on the club with 18-18-36 in 47 games. Tampa is still without talisman Steven Stamkos, as he continues to rehab his broken leg.
On defense, Victor Hedman continues to improve with each game. The learning curve seems to be over and the 23 year old is well on his way to career highs with 10-16-26.
Ben Bishop will man the crease for the Bolts and what a story he has been. Acquired last season by general manager Steve Yzerman from the Ottawa Senators, Bishop is in Vezina trophy contention with 23-5-3 record, 1.83 GAA and .937 save percentage to go along with 4 shutouts.
What They’re Saying
- “We played solidly, and I felt no rust,” Bishop said. “This was big for us coming into this building and playing well.”
- “He was probably our best player,” coach Jon Cooper said. “When you’re going on the road and trying to win a hockey game, it all starts with your goaltending. He gave us a chance to win.”
- “We talked about it before tonight’s game, that we wanted a better start,” Colin McDonaldsaid. “Obviously, we didn’t do that and got ourselves in a deeper hole than in the last couple games. Going down four, it’s just too tough to come back.”
- “He’s an offensively gifted player, and to hear him say he wanted to create more; he understands how he has to create more,” coach Jack Capuano told the team’s official website regarding Strome.
- The Islanders play the fifth game of a six-game road trip tonight in Tampa Bay. The Isles are 9-3-1 in their last 13 games against the Lightning.
- All-Time Record: 40-35-8
- Who’s Hot: Calvin de Haan is on a five-game point streak (1g/6a). John Tavares has 17 points (8g/9a) in nine games since returning from a lower-body injury. Thomas Vanek has six assists in his last six games and 18 points (6g/12a) in his last 13 games. Kyle Okposo has 20 points (11g/9a) in his last 16 games.
- Olympians: Four Islanders have been named to their National teams for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games: John Tavares (Canada), Michael Grabner (Austria), Thomas Vanek (Austria) and Lubomir Visnovsky (Slovakia).
- Need For 3: The Isles are 17-4-2 when they score at least three goals and are 1-19-5 when they do not.
- Iron-Man Streak: Frans Nielsen leads the Islanders with 177 consecutive regular-season games played. Other notable streaks include Matt Martin (109), Andrew Mac Donald (96).
26 Vanek – 91 Tavares – 21 Okposo
16 Regin – 51 Nielsen - 12 Bailey
40 Grabner – 29 Nelson – 15 Clutterbuck
13 McDonald – 53 Cizikas – 17 Martin
47 MacDonald – 37 Strait
44 de Haan – 46 Donovan
4 Martinek – 14 Hickey
Scratches: 3 Hamonic (upper body – DTD), 7 Carkner (healthy), 36 Boulton (healthy)
Injured Reserve: 11 Visnovsky, 20 Nabokov