GAME DAY: Islanders at Lightning 3/22/11

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Islanders (28-33-12) at Lightning (39-22-11) at 7:30 p.m.

The Lightning return to Tamp Bay tonight to take on the New York Islanders.  The Bolts have been struggling lately with a 2-4-4 record in their last 10 games.  This is the typical pre-playoff lull teams fall into when they know they are going to make the post season.  The Islanders are out of the race for all intents and purposes, but they have been putting forth great efforts, losing only once in regulation in their last 10 games.

This is the fourth and final meeting between the two teams, and it will be Zenon Konopka’s second and last return to the Bay this season.  He still has a lot of fans within the Bolts’ fan base, and many feel they still miss the grit he brought to the club.  The Islanders have won two of the previous three meetings, both wins coming in overtime.

It will be a battle of the wounded, as the Isles lead the NHL in man-games lost to injury.  The Bolts will continue to miss Ryan Malone and Randy Jones, while Steve Downie and Simon Gagne are both questionable.

The Isles are a young team with a lot of speed and a lot of heart.  They are all eager to show themselves off to the league, and they play hard every game.  The Lightning have to be ready for their push.  They have a relatively weak defensive core, so the Lightning are again presented with an opportunity to exploit those holes to try and gain ground on the Capitals, who sit five points ahead.

It is frustrating that Tampa has been playing relatively well yet have little to show for it points-wise.  They have been playing a lot of overtime as well, which is a concern of wearing down the team down the stretch.  These final 10 or so games need to be used to make tweaks to the system and rest everyone up, but the tempo can’t slip.  This is not the time to relax, and having a goal like the division title should help keep the motivation up heading into the second season.

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Tags: New York Islanders Tampa Bay Lightning Zenon Konopka

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