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Bruins-Islanders Preview @NHL

Despite a seven-game stretch in which they played without Alexei Yashin and had only one home appearance, the New York Islanders improved their position in the Eastern Conference standings.

The Islanders hope to continue to do so as they begin a seven-game homestand, equal to their longest of the season, when they try to deal the Boston Bruins a bad start to their six-game road trip on Thursday.

"It's a tough race," New York goaltender Rick DiPietro said. "We're trying to fight our way up. There's a lot of teams in front of us."

The Islanders entered this month in 11th place in the East, but have since climbed into a tie for ninth with Toronto by going 4-1-2 in February - all while Yashin has been sidelined with right knee tendinitis. It's uncertain when the New York captain will return to action.

DiPietro made 39 saves before stopping two of three shootout attempts in a 3-2 win at Toronto on Tuesday, helping New York avoid going winless on a three-game road trip and improve to 6-1-4 since Jan. 18.

The victory followed New York's 4-3 loss in Boston on Saturday, when former Islander Zdeno Chara gave the Bruins the win by converting his shootout attempt in the ninth round.

That win is part of Boston's 4-1-0 stretch since enduring a five-game losing streak.

The Islanders, who had won the previous six games in the series, fell to 9-2-2 with five ties in 18 meetings against Boston since Dec. 22, 2001. Over that stretch, the Bruins are winless in eight games at Nassau Coliseum.

DiPietro, a Winthrop, Mass., native, is 4-2-1 with two ties and a 2.25 goals-against average in nine starts against Boston.

New York went 4-1-2 in its other seven-game homestand this season, started by a 4-1 win over the Bruins on Oct. 14.

Boston's resurgence has been aided by the addition of right wing Brandon Bochenski, acquired from Chicago for Kris Versteeg and a draft pick on Feb. 3. Bochenski has four goals and two assists in his four games with Boston, but went pointless against the Islanders on Saturday.

Bochenski had a goal and two assists Tuesday, and Tim Thomas made 32 saves in his second shutout of the season in Boston's 3-0 home win over Edmonton.

"It feels good to win, especially when coming to a new team," Bochenski said.

Boston has four power-play goals over the last two games while getting halfway to its season-high four-game winning streak from Nov. 11-18.

"The last couple of games, we've gotten some victories," Bruins coach Dave Lewis said. "I'm a realist. I still think we have an interesting road ahead of us."

Though the Bruins will not play at home again until Feb. 26 against Atlanta, they do catch a bit of a break with only two games on this eastern road swing coming against teams among the top eight in the conference.

New York's Miroslav Satan has six goals in his last seven games, and has 13 points in seven games against Boston in an Islanders uniform.

Jason Blake, whose 27 goals and 48 points lead New York, has not scored in six straight games and has only one assist in that span.

On power plays in their last five games, the Islanders are 1-for-15 while the Bruins are 7-for-32.

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