BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- It feels like forever since the New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning last played, but their Eastern Conference second-round series resumes with Game 3 on Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET at Barclays Center. The best-of-seven series is tied at 1-1.
Here’s what to watch for:
Home cooking: The Islanders were thrilled with getting a split in Tampa, and now are thrilled to be back on home ice. The playoff atmosphere was intense during the first-round series against the Florida Panthers, when Islanders fans brought the old Coliseum energy to Brooklyn. The players are expecting much of the same for Game 3 against the Lightning.
“The energy is going to be off the charts in this building like it has been the first three games of the playoffs,” said Islanders right winger Kyle Okposo. “We’re looking forward to it. You’ve just got to use that energy in a positive way and you can’t be running around out of position, but at the same time you’ve got to be finishing your hits, playing with energy, playing with urgency and playing desperate out there.”
The Islanders were 25-11-5 on home ice during the regular season and 2-1 in the playoffs.
“We’ve got to be ready and on our toes,” said Lightning forward Michael Blunden, who could return to the lineup in Game 3.
The Islanders will get better matchups against the Lightning on home ice. Tampa defenseman Victor Hedman was matched up against John Tavares in the first two games, so expect coach Jack Capuano to keep No. 91 away from Hedman as much as possible during the two games here. The Lightning have lost their last three games at Barclays Center. Overall, Tampa has lost seven of its last eight road games against the Islanders.
Charge!: During Monday’s practice, Capuano had a simple message for his team: “Get to the [expletive] net and shoot the [expletive] puck.” New York needs to make it tough on Lightning goalie Ben Bishop. It’s a case of being nasty in front and jamming home those secondary opportunities when Bishop gives up a rebound. The Islanders also want to slow down the speedy Lightning with a physical presence. The trick, however, is to stay out of the penalty box.
Masked men: Bishop was solid during Tampa’s 4-1 win in Game 2. Overall, he’s 5-2 with a 2.02 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage in seven playoff games this spring. The Islanders’ Thomas Greiss has been steady and consistent in his first postseason as a starter. He is 5-3 with a 2.06 goals-against average and a .937 save percentage. Even though goalie Jaroslav Halak, who has been sidelined since March 8 with a groin injury, has been practicing with the team, there’s no way he plays in this series unless he’s absolutely needed.
Injury update: Islanders forward Josh Bailey missed the first two games of this series because of an upper-body injury, but it’s likely he’ll return for Game 3. He participated in the optional morning skate and will be re-evaluated before a decision is made. “It’s a big situation. It’s a big time of year and I’m champing at the bit to get that opportunity to compete and contribute,” Bailey said. “Hopefully I’ll get out there tonight.”
Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock will miss his fifth playoff game because of an upper-body injury.
“Ryan’s not feeling up to par yet, but he’s getting close,” Capuano said.
For the Lightning, defenseman Anton Stralman (leg) took part in the optional skate Tuesday, but there’s still no timetable for a return. Forward Blunden, who missed the first two games of this series with an upper-body injury, is a game-time decision. Forward Erik Condra, who suffered an upper-body injury in Game 1, appears to be out for Game 3. Forward J.T. Brown (upper body) and defenseman Matt Carle (undisclosed) both participated in the optional skate Tuesday, but they don’t appear ready to return.