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Islanders vs. Lightning Gameday: Yo, Wallace

Tim Wallace is seven feet tall, kills men by the hundreds, is a well-meaning informant on Barksdale's Towers operation, and is a positive (albeit Wigan-based) international icon of English culture seldom seen without his companion dog, Gromit.

(Okay, now that I've got those "Wallace" references out of my system, on with tonight's game. Here's a backgrounder on the real Tim Wallace from September.)

Tb-slim_medium Nyi-thinblade_medium
Lightning (11-13-2, 13th/E) @ Islanders (8-11-5, 14th/E)
7 p.m. EST | MSG+ | Audio: NHL -
Nassau [gloriously unsponsored] Veterans Mem. Coliseum
Opposition static:
Raw Charge

The Lightning have begun a road trip that swings through New York this week but went unhappily through Ottawa last night. They've lost four in a row in regulation, including three consecutive 4-2 losses, and their 11 wins include one shootout win and three OT wins. Last night's was a particularly cruel and late third-period collapse, as they coughed up a 2-1 lead. Dwayne Roloson started for just the second time since Nov. 22, so don't expect P.A. Parenteau to have him to kick around tonight.

The Lightning entered the season with a suspect blueline, and injuries have only exposed that. Pavel Kubina missed last night's game (lower body) and apparently Mattias Ohlund has had a "big" setback in his double-knee rehab. Said Guy Boucher as reported by Damian Cristodero:

"Let's not kid ourselves," Boucher said. "We're not in a position as a team to lose defensemen and keep playing and look the same way. The reality is it's something we know we have to improve, so it's tough."

The bottom line, Boucher said, "Some guys want more ice time, now they've got it. It's time to shine for some guys."

One of those guys would be Bruno Gervais, who hadn't played since Nov. 14. This is Bruno Gervais who scored last night against the Sens, naturally.

Cassie at Raw Charge thinks the Lightning's ills are related to its transition game, which from the outside could easily read like an Islanders issue, considering the puck-moving blueliners the Lightning have missing from the lineup. But hockey is hockey, and from the Lightning view they should've been up 4-0 in the first period.

So the Islanders, coming off a successful road trip and their best stretch of the season, welcome a struggling team to town. Opportunity much? If the Isles are serious about turning this around -- and obviously they are -- then they need to be prepared to deliver the same focused effort they showed in two out of three periods during most of the last four games...

Islanders Lineup

...Except now without Michael Grabner. Al Montoya starts tonight, and Micheal Haley obviously gets re-inserted. So does Wallace, who will filter in while Brian Rolston takes Grabner's spot on the line with Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo. That's not an insignificant change -- not just with the loss of Grabner's speed but of the 1-2 punch Nielsen and Grabner provide at even strength and on the penalty kill.

Wallace, for his part, has some scoring punch and will throw down when needed. He sits atop the Sound Tigers scoring chart with 20 points on nine goals. Assuming Haley re-enters on a limited-minute fourth line, you could see Wallace or Matt Martin (or both, depending on situation) taking Rolston's place next to Josh Bailey and David Ullstrom.

Injuries are no fun, but the resulting roster shuffling can be. We'll see.

Other Reading

Realignment Talk

I know it's a hot topic and I've certainly stoked those fires, but if you want to talk realignment, try out one of the previous two threads on the issue:

FIG Picks

Leave your First Islanders Goal picks in this FanShot thread here.