The banged-up Isles skate against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Coliseum tonight. Here are three factors to watch for when the puck drops.
Steven Stamkos reached the century mark in goal scoring on Monday, making him just the sixth player in NHL history to reach 100 goals before his 21st birthday. It wouldn’t be surprising if he continued his scorching start to the season tonight. Stamkos has put up 10 points in his past six games against the Isles, including two power play goals. The remarkable thing about Stamkos’ goal-scoring is that so many of his markers come from the same spot -- a one-timer from the left faceoff circle. Call it a hunch; he’ll fire a few off from that area tonight if the Bolts go a man up.
With Mike Mottau out for the season with hip surgery the Islanders blue line takes a big hit, but compensating for his absence shouldn’t be anything new. Mottau was sidelined since late November with an eye injury before suffering the torn labrum that’s ended his season. That said, they’ll probably want to improve on the defensive downturn since Mottau’s absence that’s seen their goals-allowed per game spike to 3.5 since Nov. 21. Their season average hovers at 3.37, an NHL worst.
Tough Sledding for Tavares
With little help around him, it certainly appears that the development of John Tavares has stalled. His point-per-game totals are down from last season and he currently lacks a goal in his last nine games. This is starting to have the look of a lost season for the growing youngster and it’s a tough spot to find himself in so early in his career. It’s going to be an interesting test of his resolve to see how he carries himself, but everything I’ve seen from him so far indicates he’ll have the poise and level head to stay strong ... if only mentally. Asking him to carry the league’s second-worst offense may be asking a little too much though.