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Boston Bruins vs. New York Islanders @NHLdotcom
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GAME: Boston Bruins (22-14-10-4) at New York Islanders (24-20-4-1).

TIME: Tuesday, 7 p.m. EST.

Joe Thornton's last home-and-home series with a New York team started very badly.

He just wants to be on the ice for this one.

The Boston Bruins hope to get their leading scorer back in the lineup as they face the Islanders for the first of two meetings in three nights.

Thornton has not played since breaking his right cheekbone in a fight with the Rangers' Eric Lindros on Jan. 19. Boston won that game 5-2 and beat the Rangers in New York 4-1 the following day despite being without Thornton, who had surgery Thursday.

The Bruins captain missed the team's next two games _ home losses to Buffalo and Florida _ but could return for the opener of this home-and-home set. These teams also meet Thursday in Boston.

``It hasn't been painful at all, to be honest with you,'' Thornton told the Boston Globe. ``Just my vision, that was pretty much where it was affected. But it feels fine now. I can see really good now. The swelling is still a little bit there but I can see fine and I feel fine out there.''

Thornton has been practicing with the team, wearing a full cage attached to his helmet, and participated in the pregame workout before Saturday's 2-1 loss to the Panthers.

Before dropping their last two games, the Bruins had lost only once in their previous 10 outings (8-1-1).

If Thornton does return, he likely will face one of the league's hottest goaltenders.

Rick DiPietro won his fourth straight start Saturday as New York won 3-0 in Atlanta. DiPietro, who has relegated veteran Garth Snow to backup status, made 25 saves to record his first shutout since early October.

The top overall pick in the 2000 draft was sent to the minors last month to work on his conditioning and since returning, he's gone 5-1 with a 1.74 goals-against average and .938 save percentage.

``I was comfortable at the beginning of the season,'' DiPietro said. ``Just getting a chance to play now, play on a consistent basis, and that goes a long way with a goalie's confidence.''

DiPietro and improving special teams are big reasons why New York has won four of five and is now the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

The Isles scored three power-play goals Saturday against one of the league's best penalty-killing units in Atlanta. New York is 12-for-45 with the man advantage in its last nine games.

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