BRUINS (16-9-5) at ISLANDERS (11-13-7)
Last 10 -- Boston 8-1-1; New York 3-7-0
Season series -- The teams have split their first two meetings, both in Boston. The Bruins overcame a 3-0 deficit in the third period to beat the Islanders 4-3 in a shootout on Oct. 10. The Islanders got even on Nov. 16 with a 4-1 victory in which Matt Moulson scored two goals.
Big story -- After a slow start, the Bruins are playing like the team that finished first in the Eastern Conference last season. They come to Long Island for the first time this season after 7-2 and 5-2 home victories over Toronto. Thursday night's win moved them one point ahead of Buffalo for the Northeast Division lead.
The struggling Islanders return home after going 1-4-0 on a five-game trip that saw them surrender 20 goals, including 13 while dropping their last three games.
Bruins -- Boston's slow start was largely due to its inability to score. That problem has disappeared during the Bruins' recent 8-1-1 surge.
"We're starting to play more like we did last year as a team and you know, we're starting to get our swagger," forward Mark Recchi, who had two goals Thursday, told the Bruins' Web site. "We're still not there, but we're getting there. We've got a lot of work to do but we're slowly making our way there."
Islanders -- John Tavares' goal-scoring skills seem to be translating well from junior hockey to the NHL. Tavares is coming off back-to-back two-goal games on Tuesday and Wednesday, and he leads all NHL rookies with 15 goals in 31 games. All four of the goals have come on the power play, giving the Isles' extra-man unit a much-needed boost.
"It's good to see because early in the season he had a few opportunities that he didn't cash in on and I know he was frustrated, but he's finding them now," coach Scott Gordon said.
Who's hot -- Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask is 6-0-1 in his last eight appearances since the loss to the Islanders on Nov. 16. Recchi has 3 goals in his last two games and is 3-4-7 in his last five. … Isles forward Kyle Okposo has assists on all four of Tavares' goals. In all, Tavares has scored the Islanders' last five goals.
Injury report -- Boston expects to get forward Byron Bitz (illness) and defenseman Dennis Wideman (upper body) both sat out Thursday but made the trip and are likely to play. … The banged-up Islanders lost forwards Sean Bergenheim (shoulder) and Tim Jackman (hip) on Tuesday but expect to have defenseman Andy Sutton (groin) back in the lineup.
Stat pack -- Islanders goaltender Dwayne Roloson, who's expected to play, has stopped 55 of 59 Boston shots to improve to 4-1-2 with a 1.82 goals-against average lifetime against the Bruins. … Boston had won seven in a row against the Islanders before losing the last meeting at home.
Puck drop -- This is a meeting of two teams going in opposite directions. The best thing for the Islanders is that they're finally back home after a stretch that's seen them play 12 of 14 games away from the Nassau Coliseum. But even home cooking may not be enough to enable them to slow down the Bruins.