The Tampa Bay Lightning have seemed to get past the most difficult part of their season-opening five-game road trip, though facing the New York Islanders may pose yet another challenge.
After taking three of four meetings last season, New York looks to continue its winning ways against Tampa Bay when the teams face off Thursday night.
The Lightning had a breakout season before losing in seven games to Boston in the Eastern Conference finals, while the Islanders struggled through their fourth consecutive last-place finish in the Atlantic Division.
The disparity between the teams in the standings, though, played little role in head-to-head meetings. New York took three of four for the third time in four seasons.
Tampa Bay (1-1-1) looks to start this season series on the right foot as its grueling opening road trip nears an end. Due to a renovation of the St. Pete Times Forum, the Lightning are forced to play their first five games on the road.
They're coming off a stretch of three games in four days. Tampa Bay beat Carolina on Friday, fell to Stanley Cup champion Boston on Saturday and blew a late lead in a 6-5, shootout loss to Washington on Monday.
The trip concludes Saturday against Florida.
"It's something that all teams go through at different stretches of the season," forward Adam Hall told the team's official website. "There are always different challenges, but when teams find ways to fight through those, that's what builds character and builds a strong team."
Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos had a combined five points in their first two games before going scoreless in Monday's loss. The two combined for six points last season versus the Islanders, who are coming off their first victory - albeit a sloppy one.
New York (1-1-0) beat Minnesota 2-1 on Monday, though both goals came within the first 12 minutes. The Islanders were outshot 19-5 from the second period on, but killed all seven Wild power plays.
"We did a lot of good things," coach Jack Capuano said. "We looked sharp, we were playing on our toes and not on our heels. Then all of a sudden, for whatever reason, we didn't have great puck management and that led to penalties. Anytime that you take as many penalties as we have, you can't get into the flow of the game."
and Frans Nielsen
scored, and Al Montoya
made 20 saves while playing his second straight game after being named the surprise starter ahead of Rick DiPietro
and Evgeni Nabokov
on opening night.
"I worked hard this summer to be in this position and yeah, I'm having fun," Montoya told the Islanders' official website. "I'm going to ride it out as long as I can."
It's unclear who will start in net Thursday, though DiPietro is 4-1-0 with a 2.35 goals-against average in his last five starts versus the Lightning. Montoya made 36 saves to beat Tampa Bay 5-2 on March 22.
The Lightning may turn to 42-year-old former Islander Dwayne Roloson, who's coming off a rough outing. Roloson, dealt to Tampa Bay on Jan. 1, allowed five goals in Monday's loss to the Capitals.
He gave up four goals in the March 22 loss.
Backup Mathieu Garon is 3-0-1 with a 1.81 GAA in five career appearances versus New York.