New York Islanders Vs Tampa Bay Lightning Pre-Game Report

Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Eyes On Isles Pre-Game Report

Tonight, the New York Islanders (9 -19-6, 24 points)  take on the Tampa Bay Lightning (19 – 11 – 3, 41 points) in game number  35 of the 2013-14 NHL season. Here’s what you need to know before puck drop…

Where: Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, NY

When: Tuesday, December 17th, 2013, 7PM EST

TV: MSG+ (Howie Rose, Butch Goring)

Radio: 88.7 FM WRHU, 103.9 FM WRCN (Chris King)

Opposition Blog : Bolts By The Bay

Tickets: NY Islanders tickets

The New York Islanders have come out on the winning side of the ledger only 3 times in their past 20 games. With each passing day, the 3rd and final guaranteed playoff spot in the Metropolitan division gets further and further away.

Tonight, they get another opportunity to try to right the ship and get some kind of streak started when the Tampa Bay Lightning visit Nassau Coliseum in the first meeting of the 2013-14 season between the two clubs.

Center Casey Cizikas, who skated yesterday with a jaw protector after taking a nasty shot in the chin on Friday, will not play as head coach Jack Capuano said he still was not feeling 100%. That means that Peter Regin is still inserted into the lineup as the 4th line center, skating with Matt Martin and Eric Boulton. Colin McDonald will once again watch from the press box along with Matt Carkner.

After two ferocious defensive showings, Aaron Ness, a -13 on the season, continues to garner ice time while Matt Donovan excels in Bridgeport and seems to have regained his confidence back. Whether Ness is on borrowed time or not is anyone’s guess at this point.

What is not a guess is that there is not much help coming. With the trade market overpriced and the Islanders having given up two draft picks plus Matt Moulson in the deal to acquire Thomas Vanek, the Islanders will have to deal with what they have and try to get things corrected quickly, especially on the back end. The defensive prospects in Bridgeport are simply not ready to assume any kind of role on this blueline just yet.

On the good news front, Evgeni Nabokov will be back in goal, making his second straight start. He looked very confident and agile during Saturday night’s 1-0 overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens and the team is hoping that his locker room presence helps to lighten the mood and get players to stop griping their sticks so tightly.

One could safely assume that secondary scoring was not going to be a problem entering this season but that is exactly what is happening right now. Michael Grabner still has not scored since opening night and Josh Bailey continues to be invisible on almost every one of his shifts. The early season scoring binge that Frans Nielsen was on has predictably slowed to a crawl also. If New York is to make any headway in the division and conference standings,  that is going to have to be rectified almost immediately.

Tampa Bay comes in losing 3 of their last 5 contests but riding the emotional high of a huge 3-0 shutout over the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday. Superstar Steven Stamkos, out with a broken leg, has begun skating way ahead of schedule but is still projected to be at least a month away from game action. Top defenseman Victor Hedman is also out of the lineup with an injury.

Ageless captain Martin St.Louis continues to pace the offense with 13-18-31 and he is supported by Valtteri Filppula with 10-11-21. The Lightning are 15th in goal per game, 11th in goals against, 22nd on the power play and 10th in penalty killing.

6’7 behemoth Ben Bishop will be in goal for the Lightning and he sports top of the league numbers of 17 wins, 1.97 GAA and .933 save percentage.

What They’re Saying

  •  “We were on a little skid on the road and if you want to put yourself in a position to make the playoffs you have to win on the road,” coach Jon Cooper told the team’s official website. “We are a little below .500 on the road, but that was a big step and hopefully we can regain our legs and have a good one against New York on the Island.”
  • “Having him (Nabokov) and his voice in our room is an extension of the coaching staff,” coach Jack Capuano said. “He’s been around a long time and it’s great to have him back around the team.”

Quick Hitters

  • Islanders all time versus the Lightning are 40-35-7
  • Home Point Streak: The Islanders have dropped overtime decisions in three straight home games (0-0-3). Alex Ovechkin, SydneyCrosby and Mac Pacioretty all scored in OT.
  • Strome’s Debut: Ryan Strome made his NHL debut Saturday against the Canadiens. The 20-year-old leads the AHL in scoring with 33points (9g/24a) in 23 games. He was named the CCM/AHL Rookie of the Month for November and was also named CCM/AHL Playerof the Week for the past two weeks, becoming the third AHL player in the last 20 years to be named Player of the Week in consecutiveweeks (Blake Geoffrion, 2011; Jim Carey, 1994).
  • 400: Frans Nielsen appeared in his 400th NHL game – all with the Islanders – Thursday in Phoenix. The only player on the Islandersroster with more games played in an Islanders uniform is Radek Martinek (476 GP)
  • Need For 3: The Isles are 9-3-2 when they score at least three goals and are 0-16-4 when they do not.
  • Under Capuano: The Islanders are 93-102-33 under Head Coach Jack Capuano. He ranks second on the Islanders all-time list in bothgames coached (229) and wins (93), behind Al Arbour (1,500 coached, 740 wins).

Projected Lineup

26 Vanek – 91 Tavares – 21 Okposo
40 Grabner – 51 Nielsen – 12 Bailey
29 Nelson – 18 Strome– 15 Clutterbuck
17 Martin – 16 Regin – 36 Boulton

44 deHaan – 3 Hamonic
14 Hickey – 47 MacDonald
55 Ness – 37 Strait

20 Nabokov
60 Poulin

Scratches : 7 Carkner, 13 McDonald, 53 Cizikas

Injured Reserve : 4 Martinek, 11 Visnovsky