BRUINS (11-2-2) at ISLANDERS (8-10-1)
Last 10: Boston 7-2-1; New York 4-6-0
Big Story: Lately the Islanders have started to play with a type of excitement Nassau Coliseum hasn't seen in years. They'll get a major barometer for just how exciting they can be Tuesday when they host the Bruins, a team on the short list of 2013 Stanley Cup contenders.
Bruins: Across the League it's the Chicago Blackhawks who have gotten the ink regarding teams with fast starts, but the Bruins have quietly crafted an impressive opening to the season of their own. After a 4-1 win against the Florida Panthers Sunday afternoon, highlighted by Zdeno Chara's remarkable spin-o-rama on the game-winning goal, Boston is off to its best start since the 1976-77 season. As a quirk of the schedule, the Bruins aren't actually in first place in the Northeast, but they also have at least four games in hand on every other team in the division.
The win was the third in a row for Boston, which will be wrapping up a five-game road trip Tuesday night in New York. The Bruins might be road weary having played seven of their last eight games away from Beantown, but while returning home for five of their next six games after Tuesday probably seems pretty appealing to the B's, it won't be the relaxing stay they might be hoping for. The Bruins won't have consecutive days off again until March 28-29, more than a month away.
Islanders: To say the Islanders have struggled in recent years would be generous, but there is ample evidence that New York has finally turned the corner. The Isles did suffer a 4-2 loss at home to the Southeast Division-leading Carolina Hurricanes Sunday night, but prior to that New York had won four of its last six games, including road victories over Montreal and New York and a 5-1 stomping of the defending Eastern Conference Champion Devils at the Coliseum on Feb. 16.
Much of the optimism on Long Island is coming courtesy of center John Tavares, who appears to have made the leap from promising youngster to a member of the NHL's elite this season. Tavares is tied for the League lead with 13 goals and has 12 assists, putting him in the top three in the NHL in total scoring. Isles fans should be familiar with the 2009 No. 1 overall pick by now, but if they aren't they'll have ample opportunity to see him and the improving Isles in the coming weeks. The Islanders play 10 of their next 13 games at home, meaning if there is a time to make a real push for a playoff berth, this is it.
Who's hot: Boston's Tuukka Rask is 5-0-1 in his last six starts, and has not given up more than two goals in regulation once during that stretch. ... Despite Tavares' strong play, he's actually not the Islanders' leading scorer in the last three games. That distinction belongs to Matt Moulson, who has three goals and three assists over that span.
Injury report: The Islanders placed Matt Carkner on injured reserve last week with a lower-body injury. The Bruins are healthy.