The Tampa Bay Lightning are in a sticky situation heading into Friday night’s game against the New York Islanders. For starters, they will be without Alex Killorn, who was suspended for the game for his hit on Brock Nelson in game two. Next – and more serious – are the questions still surrounding the availability of Brayden Point.
Point was injured in game two but there have been some difficulties pinpointing when the injury occurred. Point went back to the locker room about five minutes into the second period, returned to the bench, then proceeded to return to the locker room. He never returned to the bench after that.
Losing both Point and Killorn put the Lightning in a situation where they will have to rely on at least two of the three remaining guys that haven’t seen much ice time this postseason; Carter Verhaege, Mitchell Stephens, and Mathieu Jospeh. That is, if Jon Cooper sticks to the eleven forwards, seven defensemen alignment that we’ve seen during this six game win streak. If he opts to go with a twelve-six lineup then all three will be active.
Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning were able to squeak out a 2-1 victory in game two despite losing Point for more than half the game as well as Killorn after only playing barely over a minute. Not only that, but they were able to win while playing the Islanders’ style of game. That’s what gives Lightning fans optimism that Tampa Bay can win without those two players on Friday.
This is the deepest team in the NHL and overcoming the injuries that they’ve had in the postseason – Steven Stamkos, Ryan McDonagh, Nikita Kucherov, and even Victor Hedman to an extent – has put on full display their ability to win in multiple different ways. They are typically a high tempo, high scoring team – but with the additions of players like Barclay Goodrow, Pat Maroon, Blake Coleman, and Zach Bogosian, they can win those slow, grind it out, defensive battles that they have so often lost in years past.
The big thing for the Lightning on Friday night is having some of these role players step up and fill the void. Obviously no one can replace Brayden Point, but seeing contributions from guys like Coleman, Goodrow, and Maroon in the offensive zone have opened up opportunities for a lot of players on this roster. It’s all going to boil down to will.
Finally, the play of Andrei Vasilevskiy has been absolutely phenomenal. That said, this may be the game Vasy has to “steal” while standing on his head if the Bolts are going to be able to go up 3-0 in the series. As big of a punch as New York threw in game two, especially early on, they may be able to muster up the strength to throw an even harder one in game three.
The Islanders see their opening to get back in the series with (arguably) the Conn Smythe favorite’s questionable availability – but can the Lightning prove that they are able to overcome deficiencies yet again and deliver an absolutely crushing blow to the Isles?
How To Watch:
TV Broadcast: USA Network, CBC, TVAS, SN
Radio Broadcast: 970 WFLA
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Lightning Lead The Series 2-0