Islanders vs. Lightning Gameday: Stamkos and Tavares, Nino and Connolly

Sure, the franchise is just 20 years old, but it's still noteworthy that Steven Stamkos is already the Tampa Bay Lightning's fifth all-time leading scorer. Vinny Prospal will be caught for fourth place sometime next season. 316 points in 316 games for Stamkos.

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Islanders (30-32-11, 14th/E) @ Lightning (33-33-7, 13th/E)
7 p.m. | MSG+ | Audio: NHL -
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Rawishly Charged:
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John Tavares is up to a point-per-game pace this season, but has a ways to go to match that pace with his overall career numbers, currently at 194 points in 234 games. And Tavares does not yet rank even in the top 30 of all-time Islanders points producers. His next point will tie him with Butch Goring for 37th-most in franchise history.

If Stamkos were an Islander, his 316 would put him at 17th overall, ahead of Mariusz Czerkawski's 295 points in 470 games with the Isles.

Oh, on that note: The Islanders and Lightning shall engage in a match of (presumably asbestos-free) NHL hockey tonight.

Lineup Notes

Same skater lineup as the win over Toronto, with Jay Pandolfo getting the scratch at forward and Milan Jurcina sitting on D.

Al Montoya gets the start. With Evgeni Nabokov now under contract, where does that leave Montoya? The temptation is to think he'll have to find work elsewhere, as Nabokov provides that starter/veteran bridge to which ever goalie prospect wins the bulk of starts in the future. (To say nothing of the continual Rick DiPietro question.)

But despite the promise of AHL "Goalies of the Month" Kevin Poulin and Anders Nilsson and to a lesser extent Mikko Koskinen, goalies are tough to gauge and tougher to predict. And on the Island, it seems most seasons you need five or six of them.

For the Lightning, Vincent Lecavalier remains out and ex-Isle Nate Thompson has been day-to-day. Dwayne Roloson, in an awful season and after the Lightning imported Sebastian Caron as an injury replacement for Mathieu Garon, finally had a good game the other night stopping 34 of 36 Oilers shots.

The Nino Conundrum, and Brett Connolly

The Nino Conundrum: A Swiss reporter visits, provides an interpretation of how Nino Niederreiter has been handled. Thank Francesca for the translation.

In a "Three Minute Island" video bit I did for our YouTube channel earlier this week, I talked about the similar struggles of fellow WHL forward 2010 draftees Brett Connolly, Ryan Johansen and Nino. The intent was as part of a post (coming one of these days) examining their struggles. Nino's struggles (including two tough injuries) have been by far the worst, and his former Portland teammate Johansen has had the best rookie campaign of the trio, but Johansen has had his share of healthy scratches and the Lightning have been vocal about expecting more from Connolly.

Nino is a special worry for us, obviously. But seeing the three of them in context calls to mind the ever-present dilemma of "tweeners" whom teams think are too developed for juniors but too unprepared for the NHL. We know how Steve Yzerman feels.

On that note, Connolly has played roughly 15, 17 and 18 minutes in his last three games after averaging just 11:15 overall. Will Nino get a few longer opportunities as the season winds down?

Islanders Notes

League Notes

Ottawa's three-game regulation loss streak has dropped them back into playoff bubble danger, their 84 points keeping them just two ahead of Washington (8th) and Buffalo (9th) and six ahead of Winnipeg (10th).

Duncan Keith was suspended five games.

FIG Picks

Leave your First Islanders Goal picks in this thread. The race at the top is tight. We want it so competitive, we offer multiple Bettman points each game.

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