New York Islanders vs. Tampa Bay Lightning – Sold-Out Coliseum Set To Provide Home-Ice Advantage

 

The New York Islanders will face the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum at 7:00 PM EDT in what promises to be an exciting tilt; the Isles are looking to solidify their position as a playoff-bound team in the NHL’s Eastern Conference.

The Islanders currently occupy the eighth seed with 40 points on the season, one less than the in-state rival New York Rangers.

New York (18-16-4) is still above .500 on the year despite struggling at home, posting a 7-11-0 record in games played in Uniondale, NY. A playoff-type atmosphere is expected tonight as the Isles play yet another “most important game of the year.”

Multiple news outlets have reported that tickets for tonight’s game have already sold out, and with good reason. It appears that the fans on Long Island have finally realized that this Isles team is worth watching.

Beating Tampa Bay at home hasn’t been a problem for the Islanders in the past few years, and the team will look to keep that recent run of good form going. The last meeting between these two teams resulted in a narrow 4-3 victory for New York in a game where they jumped out to – what seemed to be – a commanding 4-0 lead early, only to concede three third-period goals to escape with the win.

The Lightning will try to avoid a season sweep against the Islanders by relying on the play of star forward Steven Stamkos, who boasts 10 goals and eight assists in his last 13 games against New York.

Stamkos is the league’s leading scorer with 25 goals this season, followed closely by the Isles’ John Tavares with 23.

Stopping the Stamkos line will likely be the priority of the resurgent Islanders second line of Josh Bailey, Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo. In addition to being tasked with stopping the opposition’s top line on a nightly basis, the Bailey-Nielsen-Okposo line has provided the secondary scoring that the Isles have so desperately looked for in years past.

In their last game against the Washington Capitals, Okposo netted the game-tying goal off a strong solo effort by Bailey and a pretty touch-pass from Nielsen. Another strong effort from the second line tonight is essential for the Isles.

With a win, the Islanders would post their longest home winning streak of the season at three games. The team plays the next four of their five games at the Coliseum before closing the year on a five-game road trip.

And with the exception of two tough games against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the past two weeks, the Islanders have managed at least one point in their other six contests since March 22.

The Isles can almost taste the postseason, which would be their first since the 2006-07 campaign. If it hasn’t been said already, tonight’s theme – with apologies to Under Armor – should be: protect this house. If New York can take care of business at the Coliseum, the playoff push will remain alive and well.

Projected lineup...

1st line: Moulson -- Tavares -- Boyes

2nd line: Bailey -- Nielsen -- Okposo

3rd line: Grabner -- Aucoin -- McDonald

4th line: Cizikas -- Joensuu/Lee -- Martin

1st D-pair: Hamonic -- MacDonald

2nd D-pair: Hickey -- Visnovsky

3rd D-pair: Streit -- Martinek

Goal: Nabokov

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