New York Islanders Vs. Tampa Bay Lightning on Martin Luther King Jr. Day

The Islanders face off against The Tampa Bay Lightning at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Martin Luther King Jr. Day at 1 p.m.

The Islanders look to rebound from Saturday's opening night loss on home ice to the New Jersey Devils. The Devils beat the Islanders 2-1 behind strong goaltending from Martin Brodeur and some timely offense from Illya Kovalchuk, Travis Zajac and David Clarkson.

The saving grace for the Islanders on Saturday was the play of Evgeni Nabokov. The veteran net minder only allowed 2 goals on 28 shots. Neither of the goals were the fault of the Isles' tender. The first goal was scored by the Devils' Zajac off of a beautiful saucer pass feed from Devils star Illya Kovalchuk on a 2 on 1 break, the result of a bad line change by the Isles. (Photo credit: clydeorama/flickr)

The Devils' other score came in the 3rd period a little after the Isles had tied the game up on a power play goal by Travis Hamonic. Off of a faceoff, the Devils' Clarkson fired a wrist shot through the legs of Islanders defenseman Mark Streit and past a screened Nabokov who could only look back into the net in exasperation.

Despite the loss, there were some positive signs of life from the Isles.

The home team really came on in the second half of the contest and brought it right at the visiting Devils squad. If not for a few lucky bounces and some quality play from the veteran goalie Martin Brodeur, the game could have easily been an Islander win after the late surge.

The best Islanders Saturday night were Nabokov and winger Michael Grabner. Grabner used his speed to his advantage, creating a lot of offense, including an assist on the lone Islander goal. (Photo credit: bridgetds/flickr)

Other players who had good nights were newly acquired center Keith Aucoin and defenseman Brian Strait.

The Islanders fourth line was fairly invisible all night. It will be interesting to see if coach Jack Capuano, who missed Saturday's game with emergency surgery to remove some kidney stones, but will be back behind the bench, replaces some players. The best move would be to find a way to get promising young center Casey Cizikas into the lineup.

Citing a need for size, the Islanders staff decided to play Matt Carkner and Joe Finley on defense Saturday. It will be interesting to see if Capuano pulls one of these for steady vet Radek Martinek or up and comer Thomas Hickey. With the Bolts speed, Finley probably should sit this one out as his mobility is limited.

Another Saturday problem, that certainly most teams faced, was a lack of chemistry and communication. There were several very visible problems in these key areas against the Devils.

More energy, chemistry and communication will be needed if the Islanders hope to win the Monday tilt against the visiting Bolts.

The Lightning come in 1-0 after defeating the Washington Capitals 6-3 on Saturday night. The Bolts were led, as usual, by their offensive stars. Martin St. Louis had 2 goals, Vincent Lecavalier had a goal and an assist and Steven Stamkos had a pair of assists.

Former Islander first round pick, defenseman Eric Brewer, also had a pair of goals, matching last season's total in just the first game of the season.

Anders Lindback got the start and stopped 27 of 30 Capitals shots. Expect him to get the nod over Mathieu Garon on Monday, with a likely switch for their following contest on Tuesday against the Carolina Hurricanes.

After making the conference finals in the 2010-2011 season, the Lightning failed to qualify for the playoffs last season and hope to return this season. They will rely heavily on their offensive fire power to get there, especially with the injuries they face on defense. Veteran Mattias Ohlund and young Matt Taormina are both on injured reserve.

This contest will surely be a tough one for the Islanders to win. They face a Lightning team fresh off of a division victory who is looking to take that success on the first stop on a two game road trip on back to back nights.

The Islanders will need this victory, however, because in this shortened season, and with a 5 game road trip looming, the slope might become very slippery. Also, there is the chance to jump out in front of division rivals the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers, who have both lost their first 2 games.

Look for the Islanders to replace out a couple of players, most likely Eric Boutlon and Joe Finley. Capuano will most likely insert Cizikas and one of either Martinek or Hickey. The Isles will need the increase in speed to keep up with and contain the Bolts.

In all, it should be a great game to watch. Both teams will score goals. The key to the Isles success will lie in limiting the damage from the Bolts stars, maximizing offensive chances and allowing Nabokov to see the shots as they come and make the saves.

Good luck Islanders and win this holiday match up!

-Donovan Brooks

Follow me, @donovanbrooks on Twitter and make sure to “like” The Checkingline-Isles edition on Facebook as well as on Twitter @TCLIsles to stay up to the minute with all the latest Islanders news and notes.

Feel free to shoot me an E-mail: hockeydonovan87@gmail.com.

Comments

Mike Flannery's picture

Great read. Totally agree with your assessment of Cizikas. Though not large he has a very solid body and is not afraid to through it around. I hope the Isles contract with Finley is a one-way cause I sure don't wan him taking up ice-time in Bridgeport. Keep up the good work.