Last 10: Tampa Bay (5-4-1); New York (4-6-0)
Season Series: Tampa Bay has taken the first two of four meetings this season and looks to maintain its perfect mark as it goes for three in a row over the Atlantic Division’s Islanders tonight at the St. Pete Times Forum. Mike Smith led the Bolts to a victory on Dec. 5 with a 30-save shutout, while Victor Hedman capped the 4-0 win with his first career NHL goal. The Lightning picked up an additional pair of points against the Islanders on Dec. 21 behind Ryan Malone’s career-high four points. The two clubs meet for the final time in 2009-10 on Long Island Feb. 13.
The Big Story: Tampa Bay and New York enter tonight separated by just three points in the Eastern Conference playoff race, rendering this game crucial for both clubs. Tampa Bay will play its final three games before the Olympic break against the Bruins, Islanders and Rangers, all of which are teams the Bolts are battling with for post-season positioning. However, the Lightning have gone unbeaten in regulation in five out of their last six and are 7-1-2 in their last 10 games at the St. Pete Times Forum, outscoring their opponents 27-18 in those contests. Newly acquired forward Nate Thompson will face off against his former team tonight after being claimed off waivers by the Lightning from the Islanders on Jan. 21.
LIGHTNING – Tonight marks the first match of a four-game home stand for the Lightning, who come in as winners in five of their last eight. The team split a pair of games on the road against two divisional rivals earlier this week, with the most recent resulting in a 2-1 win over Atlanta. The victory moved goaltender Antero Niittymaki to 16-0-0 all-time versus the Thrashers, while extending his current run to 4-0-1 in his last five with a .938 save percentage and an astounding 0.95 goals-against average. Stephane Veilleux scored for the Lightning, who also got a goal from Martin St. Louis. The veteran winger’s goal was his fourth in as many consecutive games, bringing him to within one of tying a career-high. Steven Stamkos tallied an assist in the contest, stretching his point streak to seven games, which also is one short of tying a career-best.
ISLANDERS – New York comes into the St. Pete Times Forum on the final stop of the team’s four-game road trip. The Islanders have dropped five straight and are looking for their first win since Jan. 21. The club has not won on the road in nearly a month, with the last victory coming on Jan. 9 at Phoenix. The losing trend continued on Sunday, falling 2-0 to the Florida Panthers. New York has scored just seven goals in regulation over its last six games, including two in the last three matches away from the Nassau Coliseum.
Who’s Hot: Steven Stamkos has four goals and six assists on his current seven-game point streak and Martin St. Louis has found the back of the net in four straight. Goaltender Antero Niittymaki is 5-1-1 in his last seven starts, posting a .938 save percentage and a 1.05 goals-against average.
- Kyle Okposo has four points in his last five games for New York, while Rob Schremp has three points, also in his last five. Josh Bailey has also collected a pair of points in his last four.
Injury Report: LIGHTNING – None. ISLANDERS – Radek Martinek (knee, out for season), Brendan Witt (leg, out 1-2 weeks), Tim Jackman (face, out 3 weeks) and Jack Hillen (jaw, out 6-8 weeks).
Quotable: “The sky is the limit with him. He loves to score goals. He’s right up there with Ovechkin in how excited he gets when he scores goals, and that always brings an energy. The guys get fired up when he scores because he’s so into it. It makes everybody else into it.” – Kurtis Foster, commenting on teammate Steven Stamkos
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