The last time the Bruins played the New York Islanders, they were riding a three game losing streak, and turned a big 6-3 win on Long Island into a 7 game game win streak.
They can only hope history repeats.
The Bruins come off a disheartening overtime loss to Buffalo on Thursday night, and will be looking to rebound against the Isles, against whom they are 2-0 this year. (The first game was a 5-2 win on December 9.) However, the Islanders are playing better hockey of late, and have found a sparkplug in goaltender Al Montoya. The former first round bust is 6-2-2 with a 2.02 GAA and .927 save percentage since the team acquired him due to a rash of goaltending injuries. Since the Islanders last played on Tuesday (beating Toronto 4-3...thanks, guys!), it seems likely that the surging Montoya will be between the pipes.
Despite their dismal record, the Islanders have some talent up front. In his second year, John Tavares is emerging as a star, with a 24-31-55 in 65 games. Matt Moulson leads the team with 28 goals. Career journeyman P.A. Parenteau is having a big year, with 15-27-42, and Michael Grabner has inserted himself into the Calder Trophy discussion with 27-14-41 (not to mention a sterling 11.2 GVT).
On defense, however, the Islanders can be exploited. Andrew McDonald is emerging as a fine defenseman, but the rest of the unit isn't anything to write home about, though young Travis Hamonic has the makings of a fine player.
The Islanders will be without Doug Weight, who is on the injured list, but has begun practicing. Radek Martinek is just coming off a lower body injury, but will play. And, please sit down before reading this...Rick DiPietro is still injured.
For the Bruins, a major key is going to be getting the power play started. The acquisition of Tomas Kaberle has not boosted the power play numbers yet. Yes, they are moving the puck better, but it has not translated to goals, and with an 0 for 19 streak currently going, the Bruins are dying for a goal on the man advantage.
Speaking of special teams, tightening up the penalty kill wouldn't hurt. Yes, the Bruins were probably victimized by some shaky officiating last night (7 power plays for the Sabres? Really?), but they gave up two goals to Montreal's power play, and two more to Buffalo. At 5 on 5 hockey, the Bruins have been stellar, but they are crippling themselves on the power play, and after killing off 15 of 17 (88%) penalties after Chris Kelly's acquisition, they've fallen back to their old penalty kill woes the last two games. Apart from tightening up the PK, the team in general, and some players in particular, must play with more discipline. Brad Marchand, I'm looking in your direction.
- We here at Stanley Cup of Chowder have expressed our disapproval of the "charity point", but be that as it may, even riding a 3 game losing streak, the Bruins have managed points in 9 of their last 10. So it's not exactly panic time.
- Nathan Horton has 16 points and a +12 in 17 games after the All-Star break, and has points in 8 of his last 10.
- If Zdeno Chara is bothered by the police investigation surrounding his hit on Max Pacioretty, he didn't show it. He had 2 assists last night. To his credit, Pacioretty said he has no desire to see Chara prosecuted.
- Take the small sample size with a grain of salt, but Boston's three new arrivals (Kaberle, Kelly and Rich Peverley) haven't exactly lit the world ablaze. In their 20 combined games, the trio have combined for an uninspiring 0.9 GVT. Of that, Peverley accounts for 0.6. You'd expect Kelly's GVT to be a bit low, since he's a defense-first guy who will be looking at unfavorable zone starts, but Kaberle has to pick it up.
- The puck drops at 7 pm. The game will be broadcast on NESN. DirecTV subscribers can pick up Jack and Brick on channel 770. If you want the Islanders feed, or perhaps a slightly more objective broadcast, Howie Rose is on 771. The game will also be broadcast on 98.5 FM.
- SB Nation's Islanders blog is Lighthouse Hockey. There's some good stuff over there, so take a few minutes to stop in and say hi.