Mathew Barzal
Catalina Fragoso-USA TODAY Sports

The Islanders and Lightning will face each other for the first time this season.

Leen Amin

The New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning, who have played each other in the last two Eastern Conference Finals, will meet for the first time this season on Monday.

Both of these teams, who have been two of the best teams in the NHL over the past two years or so, had slow starts to the season, but have looked much better lately.

For the second-straight season, the Lightning lost their superstar forward, Nikita Kucherov, to a long-term injury. They also saw many of their players, including their entire third line, leave during the offseason.

After a period of adjustment, the Lightning are beginning to look like themselves. Their offense and power play have been average, but are improving by the week. Their overall defense has been about average, as well, but that’s also improving.

Their penalty kill has been their greatest strength in the young season: it’s top-10 in the league.

Unfortunately for the Islanders, they’re not quite in as good of a position as the Lightning right now. They have a bottom-five offense and power play in the league.

They’re one of the very best defensive teams and their penalty kill is good, but not as great as it usually is, and not as good as Tampa Bay’s.

The Islanders also come into this game on a two-game losing streaks, both of which were ugly losses. They’ll look to rebound in this key game on Monday.

The good news is that that the Islanders have been off since Thursday. The hope is the extra rest and practice did them well.

Islanders players to watch:

LW Zach Parise

Career vs. TBL: 36 GP, 15 G (6 PP), 28 PTS

C Mathew Barzal

Career vs. TBL: 9 GP, 2 G (1 PP), 9 PTS

Lightning players to watch:

C Steven Stamkos

This season: 13 GP, 7 G (3 PP), 15 PTS
Career vs. NYI: 37 GP, 16 G (3 PP), 39 PTS

C Alex Killorn

This season: 13 GP, 7 G, 13 PTS

C Brayden Point

This season: 13 GP, 5 G, 10 PTS

LHD Victor Hedman

This season: 13 GP, 2 G (1 PP), 11 PTS