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Game Preview: Islanders vs. Bruins

by Cory Wright / New York Islanders

The New York Islanders started the second half on the right foot Tuesday, but the next step doesn’t get any easier, as the Islanders host the Boston Bruins tonight at 7 p.m. at Nassau Coliseum.


Despite being fourth in the Atlantic Division, the Bruins are not to be taken lightly. Boston is 6-1-3 in their last 10 games and have points in 11 of their last 12.

“They play a heavy game, they play a big game and we know what they are about,” Capuano said. “This is a good measuring stick for your team. You’re playing against a team that’s had a lot of success and every year they seem to be there at the end. They are going to be hungry. They went through a stretch where they didn’t have the success they wanted, but as of late, they’ve been on a tear.”

The Bruins are also healthy, after being ravaged by injuries to key pieces earlier this season. Zdeno Chara missed 19 games after sustaining an injury against the Islanders in October, but the Bruins captain is back to anchoring the blue line. David Krejci is also back after missing 17-of-19 games through November and December.

Patrice Bergeron leads the Bruins with 32 points (11 goals, 21 assists), but Krejci’s 0.79 points-per-game (22 points in 28 games) make him Boston’s most potent threat.

The Bruins haven’t played since the all-star break, so Tuukka Rask will likely get the start against the Islanders – his first of the season. Rask is 20-11-7 this season with a 2.35 goals against average and a .919 save percentage. Rask is 5-1-1 in his last seven starts.

“We’re playing a team that is well-rested,” Capuano said. “I’m sure they’ll come out with a lot of legs and energy. For us, it’s a matter of not changing our game plan.

The Islanders coach hasn’t named a starter for tonight’s game, but Jaroslav Halak has received a bulk of the workload, starting 12 of the team’s last 13 games. Chad Johnson was in goal for the Islanders win over the Bruins on Oct. 23 and has won the last two Isles-Bruins games, dating back to Jan. 27, 2014, when he played for the Bruins.

In years past, a visit from the Boston Bruins was a daunting challenge from one of the league’s top teams, as the B’s are 6-2-0 in their last eight trips to Long Island. But this year, the Islanders are confident in their ability to beat any team and have backed it up, beating the reigning Eastern Conference champion New York Rangers three times, the reigning Stanley Cup champion LA Kings and even the big, bad Bruins.

“I wouldn’t say they are just another team, they are obviously an experienced team that knows how to win,” Josh Bailey said. “It’s just another challenge for us, we take it day-by-day and game-by-game. Each team presents a new challenge.”

The Bruins have had the better of the Islanders at the Coliseum over the past several seasons, but the Islanders are 17-4-0 at the Coliseum this season and are looking to reverse that trend.

“Coming in before, there were a lot of Boston fans that came down,” former Bruin Johnny Boychuk said. “Now seeing us play against the other teams – especially against the Rangers – it’s nice to see the fan base we have here. It’s nice to see everyone be loud and proud. You obviously want to have a tough arena to play in and we’ve established that.”

Mikhail Grabovski will stay on the team’s top line, after scoring against the Rangers on Tuesday night. Grabovski looked to have immediate chemistry with John Tavares and Josh Bailey, as the top line scored a highlight-reel goal on a four-player, tic-tac-toe style goal.

“It was one game, but they had a lot of chances,” Capuano said. “They gave up a few against. We went through the video, there are some things they have to do better… But I was pleased with that line and there’s no need for us to even think about changing that line up right now.”

Capuano also said defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky was close to returning to action, but did not offer a specific timetable on his return.

The Islanders and Bruins face off tonight at 7 p.m.

New York Islanders
32-14-1 (65 points – 1st in Metropolitan Division, 1st in Eastern Conference)
17-4-0 home
Boston Bruins
25-16-7 (57 points - 4th in Atlantic Division, 8th in Eastern Conference)
10-9-3 road
7:00  p.m.
Nassau Coliseum
Uniondale, NY

Television:
MSG PLUS
Play-by-play: Howie Rose
; Color: Butch Goring
Channel Finder

Radio: WRHU 88.7 FM, LI News Radio 103.9 FM
Play-by-play: Chris King
Islanders News:
- Islanders TV: A Shot of Energy (Jan. 28)
- Islanders 4, Rangers 1 (Jan. 27)

What's Happening at the Coliseum:
-
Lower Lobby: 5:00
- Doors Open: 5:45
- Mike Bossy Mini-Locker Night presented by Mohegan Sun
Islanders player to watch
Frans Nielsen - Forward

Frans Nielsen enters tonight’s riding a five-game point streak (one goal, four assists). Nielsen is currently centering a line with Anders Lee and Ryan Strome, but also plays on the team’s top power-play unit. The Danish center is the Islanders shootout ace, with 37 career shootout goals on 67 attempts (55.2%), leading all NHLers with at least 30 attempts.
Bruins player to watch
Patrice Bergeron - Forward

Patrice Bergeron enters the game as the Bruins leading scorer with 32 points (11 goals, 21 assists) in 47 games. Bergeron is lauded for his defensive game, as he is a two-time Frank J. Selke Trophy winner as the league’s best defensive forward. Bergeron skated on a line with John Tavares at the 2015 All-Star Game in Columbus, assisting on three of his goals. 
New York Islanders previous game lines
Forwards
84 Mikhail Grabovski 91 John Tavares 12 Josh Bailey
12 Josh Bailey51 Frans Nielsen18 Ryan Strome
40 Michael Grabner 29 Brock Nelson86 Nikolay Kulemin
17 Matt Martin – 53 Casey Cizikas – 15 Cal Clutterbuck

Defensemen

2 Nick Leddy 55 Johnny Boychuk
44 Calvin de Haan 3 Travis Hamonic
14 Thomas Hickey37 Brian Strait

Goaltenders
41 Jaroslav Halak
30 Chad Johnson
Boston Bruins previous game lines
Forwards
17 Milan Lucic - 46 David Krejci - 88 David Pastrnak
63 Brad Marchand - 37 Patrice Bergeron - 18 Reilly Smith
23 Chris Kelly - 34 Carl Soderberg - 21 Loui Eriksson
20 Daniel Paille - 11 Gregory Campbell - 61 Craig Cunningham

Defenseman
33 Zdeno Chara - 27 Dougie Hamilton
44 Dennis Seidenberg - 54 Adam McQuaid
47 Torey Krug - 86 Kevan Miller

Goaltenders
40 Tuukka Rask
72 Niklas Svedberg


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