NHL Preview from The Sports Network|
Tuesday, March 20th
(All times eastern)
New York Islanders (34-27-10) at Tampa Bay Lightning (39-30-4), 7:30 p.m.
(Sports Network) - Both the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders will be
attempting to halt three-game losing streaks when the two playoff hopefuls get
together this evening at the St. Pete Times Forum.
New York has actually been mired in a two-week-long funk in which the club has
dropped five of six contests (1-4-1). The slide has seriously jeopardized the
Islanders' postseason chances, as New York enters tonight's play locked in a
three-way tie with Montreal and Toronto for ninth place in the Eastern
Conference standings. Carolina, which is holding down the eighth and final
playoff spot, is two points in front of the trio.
The Islanders' present three-game skid has coincided with a neck injury to
goaltender Rick DiPietro. The former No. 1 overall pick was forced to leave
last Tuesday's 5-3 loss at Montreal during the first period, and has not
played in either of New York's latest losses.
DiPietro's presence has clearly been missed, as the Isles have surrendered 13
goals over their last two games, including a season-high eight in Saturday's
setback to Florida. Olli Jokinen racked up five points (2 goals, 3 assists) to
propel the Panthers to an 8-5 triumph at BankAtlantic Center.
Ryan Smyth and Mike Sillinger each recorded two goals and two assists for New
York, but backup netminder Mike Dunham was shelled for six goals on 33 shots.
DiPietro did return to practice on Monday and could be back in the starting
Tampa Bay was also dealt a lopsided defeat in its most recent outing, as
Washington's Alexander Semin registered a natural hat trick in the second
period to spark the Capitals to a 7-1 rout Sunday at the Verizon Center.
Filip Kuba scored the lone goal for the Lightning, who have lost three in a
row for the first time since a four-game slide from December 9-16.
Johan Holmqvist started in goal for Tampa Bay, but was yanked late in the
first period after stopping 11-of-13 shots faced. Marc Denis then made two
saves to end the first period, but allowed three goals on as many shots to
start the second before Holmqvist returned.
The Lightning, who open a key four-game homestand this evening, trail Atlanta
by six points for first place in the Southeast Division and are just one point
in front of the surging New York Rangers in the race for the sixth playoff
seed in the East.
Tampa Bay has dominated this series as of late, as the Lightning have taken
all seven encounters between the squads since the start of the 2005-06
campaign. New York has lost three straight at the St. Pete Times Forum since
earning a 3-1 win there on March 16, 2004.
03/20 10:36:25 ET