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Need to know? Tampa Bay Lightning at New York Islanders game 3 preview

Just a few facts and discussion points for tonight's Eastern Conference Semifinals game 3...

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

What exactly do you need to know leading into game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals? You know your want, that's for sure... But what do you need? Maybe you can look at that question like I'm asking as a drug dealer or some kind of appeaser, but it is a valid (and wide) question that changes from person to person.

Maybe you'd want to know that the Barclays Center ice surface wasn't exactly complimented by Lightning players after practice yesterday. That's going to have an effect on tonight's game in one way or another -€” be it the actual play or who participates. Anton Stralman, Matt Carle and J.T. Brown all participated in this morning's optional skate at Barclays... If the ice quality is that mediocre, the chance the injured defensemen and forward are not going to return to action tonight is pretty high. Or Friday for that matter; you want assets to the lineup (yes, folks, Matt Carle is an asset despite the fact you see him as nothing but a liability) to not be put at risk upon returning from an injury. While you'd rather see tough play be the risk, the ice quality is a risk to factor in as well.

Forwards Erik Condra and Mike Blunden are much closer to returning to the team than Brown, Carle or Stralman, but there's no guarantee either will participate tonight either. If that's the case, expect another 11-7 deployment like in game 2, where Matt Taormina and Slater Koekkoek both got into the lineup. There is a noteworthy issue if the 11 forward, 7 defenseman split is used again and that's ice time: Koekkoek and Taormina only had 6:47 and 5:31 of ice time respectively. That's dumping quite the workload on the regulars. Faith is a good thing but overuse could very well come to pass; depth is not part of a team just to fill roster spots.

Maybe your focus is on the net for the game? Without factoring in all the beeps and blips that hold sway over goals against average, Ben Bishop has a 2.50+ GAA against the Isles (having given up 5 goals in two games played) while Thomas Greiss is hovering somewhere around 3.00. In both cases, the numbers are higher than what the men have proven themselves capable of in regular season play and the playoffs in general: Bishop has started 7 playoff games, posting a 2.01 GAA and .933 save percentage. He's 5-2. Tonight will be Greiss' 9th game in the 2016 NHL playoffs, his numbers have been just as potent (and more so) than Bishop's: a 2.06 GAA and a .937 save percentage.

Perhaps you're wondering if John Tavares or Nikita Kucherov will reach 10 goals in the playoffs (and which will do it first)? The two forwards both hold 6 goals in their games-played so far, with Tavares holding 2 more assists (5 as to Kucherov's 3). While both players lead their team in goal scoring, Kucherov is 2nd on the Lightning in points, a sole point behind Tyler Johnson (4 goals, 6 assists).

Will this be a tight affair? Well, yeah, it's the playoffs. The series between the Bolts and Red Wings had 3 of 5 games be 1 goal affairs (games 2 and 3 were the exceptions) while the Islanders series with the Panthers had 5 of the series' 6 games as 1 goal affairs (the exception being the Panthers game 2, 3-1 win). The Isles also went to overtime 3 of the 6 games against the Panthers.

Neither game 1 or game 2 of the semifinal series between Tampa Bay and the Islanders has truly been that tight or close (5-3 in game 1, with the Islanders holding a 4-1 lead most of the game; the 4-1 Lightning win in game 2 was lop-sided the other way -€” Tampa Bay controlled the action). The tightness of game 3 should be up a notch... If not and if we see a lopsided final score in favor of either club? Forget tightness; the focus for game 4 and the rest of the series becomes heat and hostility.

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