Islanders-Lightning Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated October 19, 2011
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Led by a budding young superstar, the Tampa Bay Lightning emerged as the NHL's upstart team of 2010-11, coming within one win of the Stanley Cup finals. The New York Islanders are hoping they're ready to steal that script. John Tavares and the Islanders try to notch their second win over Tampa Bay in eight days as they open their road schedule Thursday night, with the sputtering Lightning scrambling to avoid a sixth consecutive defeat. Since being shut out in its season opener, New York (3-1-0) has won three straight - including a 5-1 win last Thursday over the Lightning in which Tavares had two goals and two assists. The 21-year-old center had four points again Saturday against the New York Rangers, posting his third career hat trick and an assist in the Islanders' 4-2 victory. "You're not going to say no to production like that," said Tavares, the top overall pick in the 2009 draft. "It's nice to produce, it's what I do best." A fourth straight victory would match New York's longest winning streak from last season, when the club missed the playoffs for the fourth straight year. Tampa Bay (1-3-2) ended a three-year postseason drought, reaching the Eastern Conference finals before falling to Boston. But the Lightning, who used a 7-2-1 start to begin their charge last season, are having a difficult time replicating that success. They've been outscored 23-13 during an 0-3-2 skid, with their penalty kill proving especially inept lately. In back-to-back losses to Florida on Saturday and Monday, Tampa Bay allowed seven power-play goals in 15 chances. "Obviously, we're not happy," star center Steven Stamkos said after a 7-4 defeat in Monday's home opener. "I wouldn't say we're in a panic mode, but we're worried. This isn't the start we wanted. We're taking way too many penalties." Stamkos, the top overall pick the year before Tavares, has 98 goals since the start of the 2009-10 season - 15 more than any other NHL player. But he has just two points during the Lightning's losing streak, and has yet to score a power-play goal after netting 17 last season. Tampa Bay is 1 for 17 with the man advantage in the last five games. Coach Guy Boucher may be more concerned about his goaltending situation. The Lightning acquired Dwayne Roloson in a trade with the Islanders on Jan. 1, but he turned 42 last week and has a 6.73 goals-against average in his last three starts. Mathieu Garon has better numbers, and he stopped all 16 Islanders shots he faced last week after replacing Roloson. It's unclear whether Evgeni Nabokov will get his second consecutive start for New York. In his debut with the team - coming off a one-year hiatus from the NHL - Nabokov made 29 saves to beat the Rangers. Al Montoya started the Islanders' first three games, posting a 1.35 GAA and stopping 34 shots against Tampa Bay. Rick DiPietro is also expected to travel to Florida despite a recent concussion. Tavares, who had four goals and five assists in helping New York win five of its last six against the Lightning, seemed excited to head on the road even though the Islanders went 13-21-7 away from home last season. "We're probably ready for a good trip," Tavares said. "It's always a great way to develop chemistry. It was a huge start for us, and other than the first night we took full advantage of it."
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