Where: Amalie Arena, Tampa, Florida
When: 7 PM EST | Tickets: Check availability
Media: Sun Sports (cable) | 970 AM WFLA (radio) | Twitter Live Stream
Opponent Coverage: Lighthouse Hockey, NYI Point Blank
These are not Charles Wang's New York Islanders. Oh, they are Wang's Islanders, as there hasn't been such a player turnover that those acquired under his ownership reign are out of the system, but there's this keen difference playing out in the last season at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, New York: The Isles are competing. The Isles are winning. And the management of the roster is, and you'll never believe this, largely sound for the moment. We'll give the Isles a pass on the Thomas Vanek traveshhamockery from last season and just focus on this one.
That leads me to the next point: Cory Conacher scoring isn't a certainty in life like death and taxes. The former Lightning prospect who was a cult favorite while he was in the minor leagues and a fan favorite among those who followed his ascent to the NHL, just hasn't found the touch we (those who followed him) know he has. It eluded him after his trade to Ottawa in 2013 or during his tenure in Buffalo after being claimed off waivers from the Senators. From the time of his trade until the end of last season, Conacher posted 9 goals and 21 assists. 9 goals in 91 games... He had that many goals in 55 with the Lightning in 2013.
Right now, Cory has a single goal and a pair of assists for the New York Islanders, who signed him during the 2014 off-season. He's averaging 14 minutes of ice time a game with the Isles at this point, tabbed as a fourth liner on Daily Faceoff's line combo chart for the Isles.
Lightning fans who know the NHL roster and nothing more tend to crow when looking back at the Bishop-for-Conacher trade. As a fan of Cory, wanting to see him succeed, it always rubs me wrong. I'll keep rooting for #89 and hope he can regain his scoring touch, but preferably not tonight.
At any rate, the Islanders are in second place in the Metro Division with 22 points on the season, riding a five game winning streak at the moment with the latest being a shootout victory in Sunrise last night. Jaroslav Halak was the goalie of record for the Isles, facing 38 shots and making 35 saves, meaning in all likelihood the Lightning will see backup goalie Chad Johnson. Johnson has a 2.95 goals against average and a .899 save percentage, all paired with a 4-1-0 record. Does that give you an idea of the Islanders potency in front of him? I hope so.
Potent is the right word to use, John Tavares (7 goals, 10 assists) and Kyle Okposo (5 goals, 10 assists) lead the Isles in scoring.
It was an optional skate this morning for Tampa Bay at Amalie Arena, and only 13 skaters took part. One of them of note was Ondrej Palat, who was knocked form play during the San Jose Sharks game earlier in the week. He told Joe Smith that he's ready to go for tonight. Jon Cooper had said that Palat would be a game time decision.
It's also because of that optional-skate status that the starting goalie isn't clear for tonight. Evgeni Nabokov was on ice this morning. Don't read into that as him starting, though there is the goalie-playing-against-his-former-team factor that could end up putting him in the crease tonight.
UPDATE: Ben Bishop starts in goal for the Lightning
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