Apr. 6, 2013; Uniondale, NY, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning center Tyler Johnson (63) handles the puck as New York Islanders center Casey Cizikas (53) gives chase during the third period at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Islanders won 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Preview: Tampa Bay Lightning vs. New York Islanders

Tonight, the Tampa Bay Lightning will head to the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum to go head-to-head with the New York Islanders.

The Lightning just finished a roller coaster weekend; a weekend of shut outs. The first was not so pleasant for the Bolts, but the second really showed what the team can do when they put their minds to it.

Right now, the Islanders are on the business end of a 2 game losing streak. While a majority of their stats are very similar to that of the Lightning, the Islanders have not been able to convert those numbers into wins. Whereas the Lightning are 19-1-3, the Islanders are 9-19-6.

For the Islanders, the scoring is all about the captain. Islanders center John Tavares has netted 13 goals and 24 assists for a total of 37 points so far this season. On the other side of the ice, it is the Lightning captain who is holding it down for the Bolts. Martin St. Louis has 13 goals and 18 assists for a total of 31 points so far this season. He currently leads the Lightning in Assists and Points.

The Bolts started the season out strong while on the road; however, somewhere along the way, that all seemed to fall apart. Until Sunday’s win in Detroit, the Lightning has dropped the last 7 games on the road. The good news for the Lightning is that the Islanders have had struggles as of late on home ice. They have dropped 6 of their last 7 games at home.

After Sunday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings, Lightning Head Coach Jon Cooper  talked about his stand on winning games on the road.

We’re a little skid on the road, and if you want to put yourself in a position to make the playoffs, you have to win on the road.” Coach Cooper said after the game.”

As I said before, when you look at the numbers these two teams are eerily similar.

Bolts Isles
Goals Per Game 2.61 2.32
Goals Against Per Game 2.39 3.41
Shots on Goal Per Game 28.21 29.88
Penalty Minutes Per Game 11.45 11.79
Power Play Goals 18 17
Power Play Percentage 15.5% 15.2%
Penalty Kill Percentage 84.3% 72%

 

There is one key factor that separates these two teams; a factor that may just be the difference maker between coming home with two points and coming home with nothing.

Right now, the Islanders have the worst Penalty Kill in all of the National Hockey League. So far this season, they have allowed 30 goals on the Penalty Kill. As you can tell, this has led them to their 72% Penalty Kill.

There are three keys to the game that the Lightning will need to accomplish in order to come out on top tonight.

The first of those is to shoot the puck. As you all know, you can’t score a goal if you don’t shoot the puck. The easiest way to throw even the best of goaltenders off of their game is to pepper them with shots. We need to make sure that we have someone planted in front of the net when the puck comes into the zone and that we play aggressively enough to take it to the net.

The second key is going to be capitalization on the Power Play. The Lightning have not been very good on the power play this season. The Bolts have only capitalized on 18 of the 116 Power Play opportunities that they have been afforded this season. Against a team like the Islanders who have struggled on the Penalty Kill, it will be important for the Bolts to give them everything they can with the man advantage.

The final key to the game is going to be puck possession. The more time the team spends in the offensive zone, the more opportunities that they will be able to create. The more opportunities that they create, the more opportunities they have to capitalize on. I think you see where this is going.

The Bolts have everything that they need to get the job done. All they have to do is decide to do it.

The puck drops at 7:00 p.m. tonight. To find out where you can watch and/or listen to tonight’s matchup, you can click right here.

What do you think is the key to tonight’s game? What do the Tampa Bay Lightning need to do in order to keep the momentum rolling in their favor before they get ready to head home to the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Thursday? Sound off in the comments below and let us know what you think.

 

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