A tale of firsts: Lightning host Islanders (preview)

WHERE: St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa, Florida
MEDIA: Sun Sports (Cable), 620 WDAE (radio)
OPPONENT COVERAGE: Lighthouse Hockey

If someone told you last season that you would see a battle between first-place Tampa Bay and a first-place Islanders team in 2010, I'm guessing laughter might be the response you would have given. The two franchises have seemingly courted nothing but trouble over the last several years.... wallowing in the depths of the NHL standings and racking up high draft picks here and there.

Yet, in the early going of the 2010-11 campaign, we get to see that first-place showdown tonight at Times Palace as the Bolts host the Isles.

Two players are making their first starts against their former teams tonight. Sean Bergenheim signed with Tampa Bay this summer after spending parts of five seasons with the Isles...

And Zeke comes home for the first time tonight.

Fan favorite Zenon Konopka, who won people over for his fearlessness and willingness to drop the gloves (but not his inability to throw a decent pitch), signed with the Islanders during the off-season. Zeke was not considered a part of Steve Yzerman's plans in Tampa and was allowed to walk, much to the chagrin of Bolts faithful (and those who think an enforcer-type is a must have).

Konopka has yet to score a point this season, while averaging about 10:30 in ice time a game while playing on the Islanders fourth line. His 17 penalties-in-minutes is tied for 17th in the league with a swarm of others.

Yet here's a question for Lightning fans who are still upset at the loss of Zeke: would he have fit in to what you are seeing now in the Guy Boucher system? Short shifts of constant attacks, where speed is a mandate and ability to be versatile is essential? Let your thoughts on that be known in comments.

After Monday's win against the Stars, the Lightning are near the top in the league in power play percentage (2nd, 33.3% conversion rate) and penalty kill (tied for 4th, 90.9% kill-rate, 2 goals allowed in 22 short-handed situations). Those percentages will likely swing higher or lower wildly as the league gets more games under their belt... But from what we are seeing now, both special-team units are playing much stronger hockey than we'd seen in the recent past.

The Isles are no pushover on the power play either, they are tied for 5th in the league with a 25% conversion rate. On the penalty kill? They drop to 22nd in the league with an 80% kill-rate (6 goals allowed on 30 opportunities).

Game thread opens at 7 PM here at Raw Charge.

Other Previews

Tampa Bay Lightning official team preview

Lighthouse Hockey

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