NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Saturday, February 13th (All times eastern)
Tampa Bay Lightning (26-22-11) at New York Islanders (24-28-8), 2 p.m.
(Sports Network) - After having a season-high winning streak snapped in their last outing, the Tampa Bay Lightning will attempt to bounce back in this afternoon's road clash with a New York Islanders team they've dominated during this 2009-10 season.
Tampa Bay had a string of four straight victories halted on Thursday, although the club nearly made a impressive comeback in its 5-4 home loss to Boston. The Lightning gave up four first-period goals and trailed 5-0 early in the second before Martin St. Louis and Steve Downie each scored twice to cut the deficit to one.
"It's something to build on," said Downie of the Lightning's finish. "It shows that we're not a team that gives up. We were battling right until the end of the game, and now we've got to carry that third period onto the road. We need these points before the (Olympic) break."
Tampa did not receive a good showing on the defensive end, though. Starting goaltender Antero Niittymaki was yanked after one period after surrendering four goals and being battered for 21 shots, with Mike Smith stopping 14-of-15 chances the rest of the way.
Smith, who was seeing his first game action since January 31, could be in line for a starting assignment this afternoon due to his earlier success against the Isles. The 27-year-old yielded just two goals on a combined 68 shots in a pair of victories over New York previously this season, including a 30-save shutout back on December 5.
The Lightning also dealt the Islanders a 5-2 defeat with Niittymaki between the pipes in Tampa on February 4 and will be aiming for their first season sweep over New York since the 2006-07 campaign.
Tampa Bay will once again call upon St. Louis and young center Steven Stamkos as it goes in search of an eighth win in 11 games. Stamkos has notched a point in every one of those 11 contests, amassing eight goals and 11 assists over that span, while St. Louis has racked up nine goals and five assists during an eight-game point streak.
Downie, who put together his first career multi-goal performance in Thursday's loss, has notched seven points (2 goals, 5 assists) in a personal five-game run.
While the Lightning's strong recent play has put them in the thick of the Eastern Conference postseason race, the Islanders have struggled badly as of late. Wednesday's 3-1 loss at Pittsburgh was New York's eighth in its last nine games and dropped the team into 13th place in the East with 56 points.
The Isles have netted two goals or fewer in each of those losses and had trouble generating offense once again on Wednesday. Although New York put up 38 shots against the Penguins, Frans Nielsen's tally midway through the third period was the team's lone score.
This afternoon's matchup is the first of back-to-back home games for the Islanders, who do own a 15-11-2 record at Nassau Coliseum this season and have beaten the Lightning in four of the last five meetings between these teams held in Long Island. Prior to the Olympic break, New York will host Ottawa on Sunday.
Tampa Bay will also be in action on Sunday, visiting the New York Rangers in its final test before the hiatus.
02/13 10:30:07 ET