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Thursday, October 20, 2011
W2W4: Isles at Lightning

By Katie Strang

At a glance: After a 2-0 shutout loss in their season opener, the Islanders racked up three straight wins to complete a four-game homestand before heading on their first road trip of the year. They’ll face Tampa Bay for the second time in a week following last week’s 5-1 romp over the Lightning that featured the first of John Tavares’ two straight four-point performances.

On a roll: Capped by a hat trick against the Rangers Saturday, Tavares is off to a scorching start to his third NHL season with eight points (five goals, three assists) in the last two games. In his last game against the Lightning, Tavares and linemates Matt Moulson and PA Parenteau combined for four of the team’s five goals.

Comeau benched: Third-line winger Blake Comeau will be scratched for the second straight game, the team announced Thursday morning. Comeau hasn’t dazzled in the first three games of the season, but the move is puzzling given his production last year – a career-high 24 goals and 22 assists. Enforcer Trevor Gillies will again replace Comeau in the lineup; Gillies played 2:47 over four shifts against the Rangers Saturday.

Al’s back: Goaltender Al Montoya will make his fourth start of the season. Montoya, who was awarded the nod opening night, is 2-1-0 with a 1.35 GAA and a .953 save percentage. Backing up Montoya will be 36-year-old Evgeni Nabokov, who stopped 29 of 31 shots Saturday in his Islanders debut. Rick DiPietro, who was ruled out indefinitely with a concussion last week, made the trip to Florida with the team but will not dress.

Struggling skid: After a trip to the Eastern Conference finals last season, the Lightning are off to a slow start – 1-3-2 in their first six games. The Bolts' special teams are struggling of late and star youngster Steven Stamkos hasn’t quite hit his stride yet. Last week, head coach Guy Boucher said his team was trying to be too "cute" instead of reverting back to the basics.

Bottom line: The Islanders are off to an impressive start, but their first road test will be a good gauge of whether they can sustain a high level of play. The team also played well early last year, earning 10 of 14 possible points in the first seven games, before taking a disastrous nosedive two weeks into the season that snowballed into a 13-game losing streak and the dismissal of head coach Scott Gordon.