The Tampa Bay Lightning open a crucial six-game home stand, the longest of the season, when the New York Islanders visit the St. Pete Times Forum tonight.
The Lightning (17-24-11) will look to string together some home wins in order to climb back into the playoff picture in the NHL Eastern Conference. They currently trail the Florida Panthers for the eighth playoff spot by 13 points.
Tonight’s match-up is the third meeting of the season between these two clubs. Vincent Lecavalier, Tampa Bay’s leading goal scorer with 24 on the year, has collected a goal in each of the previous games against the Isles this season.
Martin St. Louis continues to pace the club in total points with 50. He is followed by Lecavalier with 49 points and Mark Recchi with 35. Recchi has collected four points in the last four games with a goal and three assists.
Rookie Mike McKenna is expected to get the starting assignment in net for the Lightning as Mike Smith continues to be day-to-day with an upper body injury. McKenna finished with 31 saves in his debut as a starter on Wednesday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
New York, 16-30-5, has won four of their last five games and had a four-game win streak halted Thursday night when they fell to the Panthers in Sunrise, 3-2. That win streak included a victory over the Lightning on Tuesday night on Long Island, 3-1.
The Islander’s leading scorer is defenseman Mark Streit with 38 points, but he missed the last game against the Panthers and his status is day-to-day. Bill Guerin leads the team in goals scored with 15. Trent Hunter, second to Guerin in goals with 14, has tallied three goals in the two previous games against Tampa Bay.
Following tonight’s game, the Lightning host the Atlanta Thrashers on Tuesday, followed by visits from Toronto, Chicago, Washington and New Jersey.