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The Tampa Bay Lightning are playing their best hockey this season, but their recent run against the New York Islanders is even more impressive.
The Lightning go for their seventh straight win over the Islanders when the teams meet Monday at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Tampa Bay (23-21-2) has outscored New York 21-10 over the last six games since a 3-0 shutout loss on Long Island on March 21, 2004. Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier, who were named Eastern Conference reserves for next week's All-Star game and are tied for the team lead with 60 points, also will try to extend their respective point streaks.
St. Louis has five goals and nine assists in his 10-game streak, and is about to surpass his points total from last season. The 2004 Conn Smythe Trophy winner during the Lightning's championship run, St. Louis had 31 goals and 30 assists in 80 games last season. He has 28 goals and 32 assists in 46 games so far in 2006-07.
Lecavalier, meanwhile, has six goals and five assists in a six-game run. He needs just 16 points to eclipse the 75 he recorded in 80 games last season.
The Lightning have won a season-high four straight games - all by one goal - including Saturday's 3-2 victory over Eastern Conference-leading Buffalo. Brad Richards scored the final goal of the contest 6:56 into the third period for the Lightning, who last won five in a row from Nov. 27-Dec. 10, 2005.
"We haven't gotten four in a row this year, and it's something we've got to start doing," said Richards, who has four assists and five points in his last four games against New York. "And it's also a good confidence boost."
Marc Denis stopped 32 shots, including 13 in the final period of his first start in four games. He's unbeaten in three career starts against the Islanders, going 2-0 with a tie and a 1.95 goals-against average.
"That's the best I've seen Marc Denis play this year," Lightning coach John Tortorella said.
But Johan Holmqvist may get the start. He's backstopped the first three victories of Tampa Bay's current win streak, and started both wins over New York (21-19-4) this season, posting a 1.44 GAA.
New York's bid for its first three-game winning streak since Nov. 22-25 ended with a 2-1 overtime loss to Atlantic Division-leading New Jersey on Saturday. Miroslav Satan's power-play goal with 0.7 seconds remaining forced overtime, but the Islanders were outshot 5-0 in the extra session and couldn't generate much offense after scoring five goals in each of their previous two wins.
Islanders coach Ted Nolan was pleased the team extended its points streak to three games after a season-high six-game skid.
"That was a huge goal that Miro scored for us to get a point," Nolan said. "We have to look at the positives as much as we can. This was a typical game against New Jersey. It wasn't a very entertaining game - it was kind of like watching a chess match."
Rick DiPietro, who made 28 saves Saturday, has lost four straight starts to the Lightning posting a 3.14 GAA. The Islanders also are trying to avoid a season-high fourth consecutive home loss.
Jason Blake, the Islanders' leading scorer with 23 goals and 41 points, has been held without a point in four straight contests. He will be the Isles' lone representative at the All-Star game in Dallas as a reserve.
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