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New York Islanders at Tampa Bay Lightning [Game 53 thread]

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A challenging, traveling three-in-four set begins.

NHL Mascot Showdown
Time to battle.
Photo by Scott Rovak/NHLI via Getty Images

The Islanders begin a tough road trip in Tampa with teams breathing down their neck all around them in the playoff chase. The Lightning are still in second place (and seven points back of Boston) in the Atlantic, but they have been surging lately, including 7-2-1 in their last 10. They haven’t lost in regulation since Jan. 16.

Standings Outlook

The Islanders’ win over the Kings in Brooklyn briefly moved them back up to third in the Metro, but Columbus (69 points) quickly passed them again, leaving the Islanders (68 points) one point behind going into tonight’s action.

Also lurking nearby in the wild card chase are the Flyers, Hurricanes (65 points) and Panthers (64 points). As we’ll likely note many times over the next two busy months, the Islanders have three games in hand on Columbus and two on Carolina and Philadelphia.

So objects in mirror are not as close as they appear, but the compressed schedule and some tough opponents can quickly change that perceived games-in-hand advantage.

Elsewhere Tonight

Tonight the Panthers are playing the Penguins (71 points) and the Flyers are playing the Capitals, so lots of intra-Metro and wild card opponents affecting each other on tonight’s schedule. Columbus is also in action, hosting the Avalanche, while the Hurricanes are in Vegas.

Lineup Topics

The big topic for the Lightning is the loss of Ryan McDonagh to injury, which forces some adjustments on their blueline. Learn more about that and the Lightning at Raw Charge.

The Islanders are highly unlikely to change what’s been working, so expect the same lineup and combos with the possible exception of Semyon Varlamov taking a turn in net. That would look like this:

Anders LeeMathew BarzalJordan Eberle
Anthony BeauvillierBrock NelsonJosh Bailey
Michael Dal ColleDerick BrassardKieffer Bellows
Matt MartinCasey CizikasLeo Komarov

Nick LeddyRyan Pulock
Devon ToewsScott Mayfield
Noah DobsonJohnny Boychuk

If you missed it, Sebastian Aho is again back up with the team as an available defenseman in case an injury occurs on this trip, which continues Monday in Washington before the Isles are back at home Tuesday against the Flyers.