Last 10: Tampa Bay (3-5-2); New York (5-4-1)
Season Series: Tonight’s contest at the St. Pete Times Forum is the first of four this season between the Bolts and Isles. New York won’t return to Tampa Bay until Feb. 4, while the Lightning will make two visits up to the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale on Dec. 21 and Feb. 13.
The Big Story: John Tavares and Victor Hedman, the top two picks in the 2009 Entry Draft last June, will meet for the first time in the NHL. Both are off to impressive starts. Tavares leads all rookies with 11 goals and 22 points, while Hedman has stepped into a regular role on Tampa Bay's defense, while leading all NHL rookies in ice time with 22:32.
LIGHTNING – The Bolts return home for tonight’s game after a two-game trip that started in Boston on Wednesday and wrapped up last night in New Jersey. Tampa Bay has been successful this season in the second half of back-to-back sets, recording at least a point in the previous three with an unbeaten record in regulation of 2-0-1. The Lightning have also found success against teams from New York this year, recording three out of a possible four points against both the Rangers and Sabres. Mattias Ohlund’s return this past week and the call-up of Matt Smaby have bolstered the Bolts’ defense, as seen last night when the Lightning limited the Devils to just 19 shots on goal. The Lightning also recalled center Blair Jones on Thursday in an attempt to spark more offense.
ISLANDERS – Tonight is the third game in the Islanders’ current five-game road trip that started in New Jersey on Nov. 28. New York had no way of knowing they would get two scorers when they chose Tavares with the top pick in the draft last June. With some encouragement from Tavares, forward Matt Moulson, whose brother had played with the Islanders rookie, signed with the team and has done nothing but produce. The 26-year-old, getting his first full shot in the NHL, had his first career hat trick by scoring three goals in a row in the Islanders’ 4-1 win at Atlanta on Thursday.
- Steven Stamkos continues to mark the score sheet consistently, recording six points in as many games.
- New York’s Sean Bergenheim has tallied three points in his last three contests.
Injury Report: LIGHTNING – Paul Szczechura (upper body, day-to-day); ISLANDERS – Doug Weight (upper body, placed on Injured Reserve), Andy Sutton (groin, out two-four weeks), Jeremy Reich (wrist, out indefinitely), and Radek Martinek (knee, out for season).
Quotable: “I’ve been working a lot in the defensive zone. Taking care of the puck, just developing smaller things about my game that weren’t there. I think I came a long way. You have to play like you want to be here and you have to show them you belong here every game and not think, ‘Well, I'm here to fill a roster spot for a few games and then I'll be going back.’ I'm happy to be back up and don’t want to go back down.” – Recently recalled center Blair Jones.
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