Game Preview: NY Islanders vs Tampa Bay Lightning, 2/24/24

The Islanders grow more desperate with each passing game. Can they take a crucial two points from a struggling Tampa Bay team this afternoon?

The Islanders and Lightning face off in a matinee game at UBS Arena this afternoon.
The Islanders and Lightning face off in a matinee game at UBS Arena this afternoon. / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages
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This afternoon at UBS Arena, the NY Islanders (23-19-14) host the Tampa Bay Lightning (30-23-5) in a game with massive postseason implications. The Islanders are currently 5 points behind the Lightning for the second Wild Card spot (albeit with two games in hand), so this is effectively a must-win game for the Isles. Meanwhile, the Lightning are in the midst of a three-game losing streak, and after the injury to Mikhail Sergachev, as looking as vulnerable as they have looked in years.

While Casey Cizikas is expected to be re-evaluated this weekend, Kyle MacLean is likely to draw back in on the fourth line for the Isles. Otherwise, the lineup is largely expected to remain the same.

Puck Drop will be at 2:00 PM ET.

LAST GAME

The Islanders lost 4-0 to the Blues on Thursday night. While the final score makes the game look worse than it was for the Isles, it is still an unacceptable result this late in the season. The Isles allowed 3 goals in a 32-second span in the second period, which immediately erased any hopes of a positive outcome. This has been an organizational problem all season- the Islanders seemingly have an inability to stop the bleeding, and the roof often caves in when things get tough. This would presumably be a long-term goal for Patrick Roy: build up the intestinal fortitude to stop the bleeding in tough times.

At this point in the season, the Islanders have blown more than their share of points in the standings, and their positioning is precarious because of these disappointing outcomes. There is no time like the present to start turning things around.

HISTORICAL MATCHUP

The Islanders have an all-time record of 58-68-3-4 against the Lightning. The two teams have met in the postseason four times, and the Lightning have won all four series. Most recently, the Isles and Lightning matched up in the 2020 and 2021 Eastern Conference Finals. Although both were terrific series' to watch, the Lightning came out on top both times, and ended up winning both Stanley Cups. It is a bitter pill for the Islanders and their fans to swallow, knowing that had they just gotten by Tampa once, the Drive for Five might have been successfully completed.

Most recently, the Islanders defeated the Lightning 6-2 on February 8 in arguably their most complete effort of the season.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

NYI- Ilya Sorokin. The Islanders need their best player to be their best player every night if they would like to make the postseason. Enter Ilya Sorokin. While Sorokin has been fine this season, he has not been the Vezina Trophy-caliber goaltender he had been in recent seasons. Today, the Islanders are facing the team currently holding the playoff spot they would like to possess, and the Lightning currently have the NHL's #1 power play at 29.7%. The Islanders penalty-killing woes this season are well-documented, and they will need Sorokin to stand on his head to ensure they receive a crucial two points today.

Calvin de Haan
Calvin de Haan spent six seasons as a mainstay on the Islanders' blue line from 2011-2018. / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

TB- Calvin de Haan. Welcome back, old friend. de Haan, who was an underrated member of the Islanders for many years, revisits Long Island this afternoon as an important piece for a Lightning squad trying to hold their team defense together. After Sergachev's season-ending injury, the team was already in trouble- and that's before Erik Cernak missed Thursday's game with an illness and Haydn Fleury left Thursday's game wtih an injury. It will be players like de Haan, Darren Raddysh, and Nick Perbix that will have to keep the Lightning afloat if they do not wish for the bottom to fall out on this defense.

EXPECTED LINEUPS

NYI

Anders Lee- Bo Horvat- Mathew Barzal

Pierre Engvall- Brock Nelson- Kyle Palmieri

Simon Holmstrom- JG Pageau- Oliver Wahlstrom

Matt Martin- Kyle MacLean- Cal Clutterbuck

Alexander Romanov- Noah Dobson

Adam Pelech- Ryan Pulock

Mike Reilly- Scott Mayfield

Ilya Sorokin

Semyon Varlamov

TB

Brandon Hagel- Brayden Point- Nikita Kucherov

Steven Stamkos- Anthony Cirelli- Mitchell Chafee

Michael Eyssimont- Nick Paul- Conor Sheary

Cole Koepke- Luke Glendening- Tyler Motte

Victor Hedman- Darren Raddysh

Haydn Fleury/Erik Cernak- Nick Perbix

Emil Martinsen-Lilleberg- Calvin DeHaan

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Jonas Johansson

Expected line combinations courtesy of Daily Faceoff.