The Tampa Bay Lightning take to the road tonight against the New York Islanders at the Nassau Coliseum for the first of two back-to-back away games, concluding with a visit to Pittsburgh tomorrow.
For the Lightning, the wins become more crucial, the games become fewer but the challenges remain, as the season begins to wind towards the playoffs.
Tonight’s challenge centers on the goaltending position, as regular starter Mike Smith is questionable, due to an upper body injury. His back-up, veteran Olaf Kolzig is inactive after season-ending surgery, which leaves either Kari Ramo or newly signed Mike McKenna, both from the Norfolk Admirals in the AHL, to handle the duties in net.
The Lightning (17-23-10) will be looking to stop a two-game losing skid when they face the Islanders for only the second time this season. Back on October 16th, Tampa Bay dropped an overtime decision to the Isles, 4-3, in Tampa. Vincent Lecavalier, Vaclav Prospal and Ryan Malone scored for the Bolts in that contest.
Lecavalier leads the Lightning in goals with 22, which ties him for 10th among all NHL goal scorers, while Martin St. Louis continues to pace the team in points collected with 48. Vaclav Prospal has contributed six points (including 4 goals) over the last six games.
The Islanders (15-29-5) come into tonight’s game riding a three-game unbeaten streak. Their top scorer is a defenseman, Mark Streit, with 37 points. Veteran Bill Guerin leads the team with 15 goals.
The Lightning head for Pittsburgh immediately following tonight’s game and will meet the Penguins Wednesday night.
They will get a repeat performance against the Islanders on Saturday, when they host New York at the St. Pete Times Forum.