Another call-up; Tampa Bay Lightning versus New York Islanders preview

Lightning team captain Vincent Lecavalier is out for a week with an undisclosed lower-body injury. - Bruce Bennett

Team captain Vincent Lecavalier goes down and the Lightning will bring up another prospect; will the Bolts effort in front of a home crowd be more formidable than the ugliness of Tuesday in South Florida?

WHERE: Tampa Bay Times Forum, Tampa, Florida
WHEN: 7:30 PM EDT | | TICKETS: Check Availability
MEDIA: Sun Sports (cable), 970 WFLA (radio)
OPPONENT COVERAGE: Lighthouse Hockey, NYI Point Blank

Breaking news for the Lightning this morning has team captain Vincent Lecavalier heading to injured reserve with an ambiguous lower-body injury sustained Tuesday against the Florida Panthers. If you were watching the game at the time on Sun Sports, you may remember Vinny working around the Florida Panthers net and attempting to pass between a Panther defender and Jacob Markstrom, which resulted in Lecavalier hitting the ice pretty hard on his hip and getting up very slowly.

With Lecavalier on IR (but for no longer than a week says Steve Yzerman) and Tom Pyatt day-to-day with his own injury, the Lightning will recall Syracuse Crunch center Tyler Johnson. Johnson will become the sixth Lightning prospect to make his NHL debut this season (the others are Cory Conacher, Alex Killorn, Richard Panik, Ondrej Palat, and Radko Gudas). Johnson, who is a wee bit smaller than Lecavalier (5' 10" to Lecavalier's 6' 4") but has been potent at the AHL level; he is just under a point-per-game pace, having scored 58 points (32 goals, 26 assists) in 59 games this season, second in the AHL to Gustav Nyquit's 60 points for the Grand Rapids Griffins.

As for tonight...

Tuesday was ugly, real ugly. While a win is a win and moves the Bolts a little ways away from the abyss that is the NHL cellar, they still have a long, arduous climb if they'd like to get back into playoff contention, and the New York Islanders are a more potent team than the Panthers.

I mean, really... The league has Seen Stamkos, now they have to learn how to tame Tavares. Not really, not this year. John Tavares is (further) coming into his own with 16 goals and 13 assists in 26 games; John is in the top five in goals this season in the NHL.

And while the #1 pick from the 2009 Entry Draft (Tavares) is the guy who draws your focus on the ice, it's his wingman that benefits. Matt Moulson is second on the Isles with 27 points this season (11 goals, 16 assists). In a way, the pair reminds me of Vincent Lecavalier and Brad Richards playing together with Rimouski Oceanic in junior hockey - the players are a tandem - they enable each other.

The Islanders are two points in front of Tampa Bay in the standings; two points that the Bolts conceded to them on January 21st in Uniondale when the Lightning came out flat and did not put up much of an effort until the third period. Recent play has shown that play by the Lightning is more the norm than an aberration (which it looked like at the time).

If the Bolts are going to be competitive in these last 22 games of the season, they've got to overcome such complacency.

Anders Lindback will get another start in net tonight after his 37 save performance on Tuesday in Sunrise. Evgeni Nabokov will get the start for the Islanders. The goalies statistics are a near perfect match: Lindback has a 3.04 GAA and .899 save % (along with a 9-6-1 record) while Nabokov has a 3.02 GAA and a .900 save % (and an 11-8-3 record).

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