Lightning (16-18-2, 34 Points) at Islanders (18-16-4, 40 Points)
TV/Radio: Fox Sports Florida; AM 970 WFLA
Saturday’s matchup is the third and final meeting between the Lightning and Islanders. New York has taken each of the first two matchups on the season, scoring a 4-3 victory on Long Island back on January 21, in addition to gaining two points in its most recent victory against the Bolts, a 2-0 shutout on March 14 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
The Big Story:
Tampa Bay got its first glimpse of new goaltender Ben Bishop on Thursday, and the 6-foot-7 netminder did not disappoint. Bishop stopped all 45 shots faced in a 5-0 shutout of Carolina to earn a win in his team debut, and bring the Lightning to within five points of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Islanders, meanwhile, are in the thick of things also, as New York enters Saturday with the seventh seed in the East at 40 points, but is just two shy of falling out of the top eight. With that said, a win for both teams is crucial.
LIGHTNING – The Bolts continue on their three-game road trip Saturday on Long Island, where they will play the second contest overall of the set, with the game also being the first in a back-to-back that will conclude the trip on Sunday in the nation’s capital. Tampa Bay’s play has drastically improved under new head coach Jon Cooper, as the Lightning have posted a 2-0-1 record with him behind the bench, and have collected points in four straight dating back to the end of last month. The Bolts’ hot streak continued Thursday night in Carolina, where Martin St. Louis had a goal and two assists, and Teddy Purcell, Tom Pyatt, Keith Aulie and Benoit Pouliot also scored in a 5-0 shutout of the Hurricanes. Ben Bishop made 45 saves for the victory in his Lightning debut, becoming just the second goaltender in team history to post a whitewash in his very first game with his new club. Steven Stamkos and Matt Carle also added two helpers each, as the Lightning improved to 4-0-0 on the season against their division rivals.
ISLANDERS – New York hosts the Bolts in the first contest of a two-game homestand. After a slow start to the season, the Islanders have climbed up the standings recently, currently sitting in seventh in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. New York has earned points in three consecutive games, as well as in six of its past seven games overall, going 5-1-1 in that span. The club had its modest two-game win streak snapped on Thursday in Washington, where New York erased a one-goal deficit in the third period thanks to a tally by Kyle Okposo to force overtime, but eventually fell 2-1 in the shootout to the Capitals. Mike Green scored in regulation for Washington, while Alex Ovechkin’s goal in the second round of the shootout held up as the game-winner to put the Capitals in first place atop the Southeast Division.
Lightning forward Alex Killorn has picked up a pair of goals and four points in his past three games, while Matt Carle has collected four assists in his past three games as well for Tampa Bay. Teddy Purcell also has a goal and three points in his past two contests. New York’s Frans Nielsen has a goal and three assists in his past three outings and Josh Bailey has registered three points in as many games for the Islanders.
LIGHTNING – Ryan Malone (Upper Body, Placed On Injured Reserve), Anders Lindback (Lower Body, Placed On Injured Reserve), Pierre-Cedric Labrie (Upper Body, Placed On Injured Reserve) and Victor Hedman (Lower Body). ISLANDERS – Joe Finley (Lower Body), David Ullstrom (Groin, Placed On Injured Reserve) and Brian Strait (Ankle, Placed On Injured Reserve).
Twitter Stat Pack:
The Lightning have picked up points in four straight games, going 3-0-1 during that stretch, out-scoring their opponents 14-8.
The Lightning will be looking to snap a four-game losing streak at Nasseau Coliseum, with their last win coming on November 17, 2010.
Martin St. Louis has tallied two goals and four assists over his past five games against New York.
The last time the Lightning visited the Islanders there were 24 penalty minutes handed out in the first second of the hockey game which involved two fights on January 21, 2013.
Ben Bishop has recorded two shutouts over his past three starts and owns a 5-1-0 record over his last six games to go along with a 1.95 goals-against average and .937 save percentage.
“I tried not to put too much pressure on myself and I just treated it like every other game. There was a lot of talk, guys did a great job in front of me blocking shots, so I thought it was a really good effort. The key for me was just to keep it simple.” – New Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop, following his first win as a member of the Lightning on Thursday night at Carolina
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