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TAMPA, Fla. — The red-light district will be on high alert Saturday when the New York Islanders head to Tampa to face the top-ranked Lightning at Amalie Arena.
The matchup features two of the top three scoring teams in the league.
The Lightning are off to a historical start with 32 points through 19 games, sporting a 15-2-2 record, and are the highest-scoring team in the league with 76 goals scored — the only team in the league averaging 4.00 goals per game.
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Tampa Bay scored five or more goals on nine occasions this season, including in four of the past five games. Three times the Lightning have been north of the six-goal mark, including the last time out in a 6-1 victory against Dallas on Thursday.
The top line of Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Vladislav Namestnikov are leading the way offensively by combining for 36 goals and 88 points on the season, an average of 4.6 points per game.
“They are playing extremely well right now, but I think it fits with how our team is playing,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “Their timing for big goals has been exceptional for us and they are obviously a big part of our team. They want to produce, they like to produce, and they are producing. They are the engine that starts our team.”
The Islanders, meanwhile, have scored the third-most goals in the league at 65 and are averaging the second-most goals in the league at 3.61 per game. New York scored five or more goals eight times through 18 games and is coming off a victory against Carolina in which the Islanders scored six times.
John Tavares leads the way with 13 goals while Josh Bailey paces the team with 16 assists and 20 points. Rookie Mathew Barzal has emerged as a Calder Trophy candidate with 17 points.
It was that offense that helped bail out the Islanders against Carolina, which rallied for three goals in the third period after New York blew a 3-1 lead in the second period.
“The second period was really sloppy,” defenseman Johnny Boychuk, who scored the game-winner late in the third, told NHL.com “We have to clean that up, because when we did, we just got it in deep and went to work, and we got our chances that way.”
The Islanders will have quite the challenge ahead of them, however, in heading to Tampa. While New York is 6-0-2 on home ice, all six of the team’s regulation losses have occurred on the road this season.
“When we’re at home we tend to play well,” Boychuk said. “We played well for two periods, we just have to get a solid three periods together.”