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New York Islanders vs. Tampa Bay Lightning Preview: Radek Martinek's 10th Life

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He's somehow unbreakable while being exceedingly breakable.

Positive thinking.
Positive thinking.
Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sport

In this world there are cats with their nine lives, and then there is Radek Martinek who evidently has 10.

Not that he hasn't paid dearly for every one of them -- the man has had enough major injuries to make you wonder about Iron Curtain-era water and pediatric nutrition -- but goodness, Martinek is back yet again. Amazingly, his back spasms subsided just in time to come off IR once Travis Hamonic got knocked out of the lineup and, as of today, sent back to Long Island for evaluation.

Islanders (18-23-7, 8th/Metro) @ Lightning (28-15-4, t-1st/Atl)
7:30 p.m. EST | MSG+ |
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In addition to Martinek stepping in (for Matt Carkner), Peter Regin re-enters the lineup after Ryan Strome was returned to Bridgeport. For the first time, Regin will slot next to his countryman and longtime friend Frans Nielsen, on a line of three natural centers. (Josh Bailey is the other.)

Regin on playing out of his natural position:

I have to concentrate on staying on the wall because it's natural to go to the middle... I think [me and Frans Nielsen] have pretty good chemistry. If I go into the middle, he'll read off me and go to the wall.

Regin has played plenty of wing before though, with Ottawa and in his last appearance in the Isles lineup. The trio could be the most defensive-minded trio the Isles could possibly put out there.

Kevin Poulin starts opposite Ben Bishop.

In Jack Capuano's morning scrum [mp3], he was asked if Strome still would have been sent down if it weren't for the nuanced Olympic break rules. His answer: "Yeah I ahhh...I would have had that conversation with Garth." Always careful not to talk out of role. Message, message, message consistency.

Also in that scrum, Capuano said he thinks Brock Nelson's games have been better at center than at wing. That helps explain why Nelson is the third-line center tonight, between Michael Grabner and Cal Clutterbuck.

Meanwhile, down on the farm, Michael Fornabaio gives a look from Sound Tigers practice:

Strome seemed in good spirits. He hadn’t seemed like the kind of personality who was going to take it and sulk. Story tomorrow.

But back to tonight: You know who's a bigger Olympic snub than Kyle Okposo? Viktor Hedman, who is reaching his potential at last. He's been a good defensive defenseman for more than a year now, but his offense has come 'round this year too.

"I'm extremely impressed at how much he thinks everything out now," Lightning coach Jon Cooper told the team website. "Now he has the confidence to make these plays and that's where he's really matured.

"It's hard for me not to sit here and say he's propelling himself up into the upper echelon of defenseman and he's earning that. If he can sustain this for a full season, people are going to start talking individual rewards for him."

The Lightning are still without Steven Stamkos, though they've kept rolling without him. Scary team, with a good story, a good style of play, and a likable coach (Anders Lee's old coach in the USHL) Jon Cooper. The Isles will try to fight through them to keep this a good road trip.

Good luck, boys.

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