Reeling Lightning square off against Islanders

WHERE: St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa, Florida
MEDIA: Sun Sports (cable), 620 WDAE (radio)

The Lightning have now lost six of their past eight. The latest, of course, being last night against the New Jersey Devils in Newark. The Bolts have earned four points in that eight games span -- one win and two overtime losses. Since the begining of November, they have had only three regulation wins -- versus Les Habs in Montreal (3-1), against the Coyotes on the road in Phoenix (4-1) and at home against the Rangers (5-1). Three games in their last 16...

It's feeling and looking too much like last season for comfort.

For all the talk of the lack of offense, the Lightning played in their 14th one-goal game on Friday night. That's more than half of the 27 the Lightning have played. The failing was not offense but defense, as the Bolts gave away a one-goal lead and failed to hold the tie to send the game into overtime (which would have at least earned a point). This is a repeating story this season and one that is being overlooked because of one scapegoat sideshow (lack of goals from the team captain) or another (the Olympics, Steven Stamkos, Ownership issues, etc).

Tonight the Lightning are squaring off against the New York Islanders. It's a meeting between 2008-09's bottom-dwellers as well as the first ever NHL game between 2009 NHL Draft alumni John Tavares and Victor Hedman. The two players have squared off before in international play, and of course the two have have been thoroughly exposed to each other with thanks to pre-draft hype... Tavares is contributing as much to the Islanders success this season as could be expected from a rookie:

G A P +/- PIM
2009 - John Tavares 11 11 22 1 4

It's hard to compare his contribution directly to Victor Hedman, because Hedman's job is to prevent scoring and serve in his own end before chipping in on offense.  But Hedman has been contributing on the Lightning blue line in full this season so far, averaging 22 minutes of ice time per game, chipping in seven assists as well.

The Isles are 11-10-7 this season, with thanks to solid goaltending from free-agent pickup Dwayne Rolson. Martin Biron hasn't been too shabby either but he has not been as solid as Rolson for the Isles (16 games, 9-2-5, 2.69 GAA, .918 save %).

Speaking of goaltending, while Mike Smith will be between the pipes tonight for the Bolts (likely against Rolson), Rick DiPietro (remember him?) will be making the first start of his comeback attempt tonight in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Rick's had a slew of injuries that has shortened what was looking like it would be a great career... Of course he will be forever known as the goalie that influenced "Mad" Mike Milbury to trade away journeyman Kevin Weekes and Roberto Luongo (note to Isles fans reading this -- no, I'm not deliberately trying to inflict pain of this memory. That memory is painful for us too -- then GM Rick Dudley traded for Weekes instead of Luongo).

Lighthouse Hockey has more on Rick's comeback attempt as well as the importance of tonight's Isles/Bolts matchup - right now the Isles are the #8 seed in the east and the Bolts are #9.

Paul Szczechura is questionable for tonight's game after his injury during last night's affair. Kurtis Foster will be back in if Chewie indeed can't go.

The Isles have the 23rd ranked power play unit in the league with a 17.6% conversion rate, there penalty kill unit is  a much more formidable 81.3% -- 13th in the league.  They're highly comparable to the Lightning in the fact they are giving up a huge number of shots per game (33.4) but unlike the Bolts, they're taking plenty of their own (averaging almost 30 a game (29.7).

This is the first of four meetings between the teams this season, with our next dance being on December 21st.

While we include the projected-lines widget here, it's really anyone's guess what Rick Tocchet is going to do with his lines tonight after the juggling act that he put on during the game last night.

Tampa Bay Lightning Projected Lines

(updated December 5, 2009 by RawCharge subject to change)

Forward Lines:

Alex Tanguay - Vincent Lecavalier - Jeff Halpern
Ryan Malone - Steven Stamkos - Martin St. Louis
James Wright - Blair Jones - Steve Downie
Stephane Veilleux - Zenon Konopka - Kurtis Foster


Victor Hedman | Mattias Ohlund
Andrej Meszaros | Matt Walker
David Hale | Lukas Krajicek


Mike Smith (starter)
Antero Niittymaki

Other Previews

Tampa Bay Lightning official team preview


Lighthouse Hockey

Should head coach Rick Tocchet be considered on the hot seat?

Don't know.7