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Tampa Bay Lightning vs. New York Islanders preview: A new challenge for the Bolts blue line

The Bolts are looking for their first win against the Isles this season

New York Islanders v Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning vs New York Islanders Game 55

Time: 7:00 pm Eastern Time

Location: Amalie Arena

Broadcast/Streaming: ESPN+, Fox Sun

Opponent SBNation Site: Lighthouse Hockey

Preview:

The Tampa Bay Lightning are welcoming the New York Islanders to Amalie Arena this evening. The team kept their winning streak alive on Thursday with their last loss in regulation time dated back to January 16 when the Bolts were defeated by the Minnesota Wild. However, the Lightning haven’t been successful against the Isles, as the Brooklyn team defeated them in both previous meetings this season.

Besides Jan Rutta, who suffered an injury against the Vegas Golden Knights, the Lightning also lost Ryan McDonagh who didn’t return after blocking an Evgeni Malkin shot on Thursday. No official update on his status hasn’t been revealed yet, although McDonagh attended a public event last night wearing a boot. The team yesterday announced the recall of Cameron Gaunce from the Syracuse Crunch as insurance. The 29-year old defenseman played two games for the Lightning at the end of the 2018-19 regular season.

According to the morning lines, Eric Cernak was promoted to the first pair and Braydon Coburn and Luke Schenn will form the third pair. It will be the first game for Luke Schenn since December 31st.

The Islanders are also missing key defensive players. Adam Pelech suffered an Achilles tendon injury and will miss the rest of the season. Cal Clutterbuck is also out after having a wrist surgery due to getting cut by a skate blade.

In recent month, the Islanders have fallen down to the first wild card spot. However, they still have some games in hand compared to their opponents from the Metropolitan division and can feel optimistic about the approaching playoffs.

In their previous game, the Bolts outplayed the Isles in terms of expected goals and shots, but still were defeated due to a poor goaltending. Since that moment, this component has hugely improved. Both Andrei Vasilevskiy and Curtis McElhinney are in the top-20 at GSAx at even strength since then. At the same moment, the Isles look like a mediocre team by most of the numbers. They are 16th in expected goals and allowing 2.41 expected goals per 60 according to Evolving-hockey.com. What’s keeping them alive is their goaltending. Their goalie tandem is the 6th in the league with 92.78 save percentage.

The Lightning are still the second in the Atlantic division, five points behind the Boston Bruins, and have one game in hand. After tonight’s game, the Bolts will play a difficult set of back-to-back games against the Blue Jackets and the Penguins on the road.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forward Lines

Steven Stamkos - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov

Ondrej Palat - Anthony Cirelli - Tyler Johnson

Alex Killorn - Cedric Paquette - Patrick Maroon

Carter Verhaeghe - Mitchell Stephens - Yanni Gourde

Defense Pairings

Victor Hedman - Erik Cernak

Mikhail Sergachev - Kevin Shattenkirk

Braydon Coburn - Luke Schenn

Injuries: Jan Rutta, Ryan McDonagh

Scratches: Cameron Gaunce

Goaltenders

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Curtis McElhinney

New York Islanders

Forward Lines

Anders Lee - Mathew Barzal - Jordan Eberle

Anthony Beauvillier - Brock Nelson - Josh Bailey

Kieffer Bellows - Derick Brassard - Michael Dal Colle

Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Leo Komarov

Defense Pairings

Nick Leddy - Ryan Pulock

Devon Toews - Scott Mayfield

Noah Dobson - Johnny Boychuk

Goalies

Semyon Varlamov

Thomas Greiss

Injuries: Adam Pelech, Cal Clutterbuck