ISLANDERS (26-29-9) at BRUINS (38-21-3)
TV: MSG PLUS, NESN (HD)
LAST 10: New York 3-6-1, Boston 5-4-1
Season Series: March comes in with a Bruins-Islanders matchup and goes out with one, as they meet one final time on the final day of the month. It was all Bruins in the first two games back in November, when they scored six goals each as part of the stretch that overcame a slow October start and vaulted them to the top of the Northeast Division and the League's A-list. For the Islanders, the two losses were part of a 2-10-4 slump from which they have yet to recover.
Big Story: It's a good thing November and December were so productive for the Bruins, because they're just 10-10-2 since Jan. 14. Back then, they were one point out of the top seed in the Eastern Conference, but that margin that has since grown to nine points with the Ottawa Senators hanging just behind the whole time. The Islanders actually have a better record in that stretch at 11-9-3, the difference of course being the Isles' maddening inability to get on a roll, taking a step forward and two steps back all season long. They're still theoretically in the playoff race at nine points out with 18 games to go, but they're 1-4-1 in their last six games and have a five-game road losing streak.
Islanders : The Isles conclude a four-game trip trying to avoid being swept -- despite getting off to fast starts in all three games. They've opened the scoring at 49 seconds, 4:14 and 1:35, respectively.
The trouble is what happens afterward. In Washington they frittered away a two-goal lead in the final minutes of regulation and in Philadelphia they simply couldn't keep up with a rejuvenated Flyers attack. Josh Bailey bracketed two Philly goals with scores of his own but the Broad Streeters maintained the pressure, putting the game away with three more unanswered goals in the 6-3 loss.
"They outmuscled us," Isles coach Jack Capuano said. "They were stronger on their sticks. On three goals we had coverage, but they were stronger on their sticks, stronger on the puck than we were, and that's the disappointing part. We know they're a big, physical team and they're good down low, but we had our opportunities. We have to battle a little harder one-on-one."
Bruins: Claude Julien didn't panic after his team was shut out for the fourth time in 10 games on Tuesday, but that didn't prevent him from making a few offensive tweaks for Thursday's game against the Devils. He moved David Krejci back to center between Tyler Seguin and Milan Lucic, while Patrice Bergeron took on Brad Marchand and recently acquired Brian Rolston. Chris Kelly centered Benoit Pouliot and Jordan Caron.
The Krejci move was the one that paid the biggest dividends. He got the B's on the board early and really came through when they had blown a 2-0 lead, tying the game in the third and completing a hat trick with the overtime winner in a 4-3 victory. He carried the team Thursday, an ability he has shown in the past.
"What I remember the most is my first year here, and he was a rookie, and we lost Patrice [Bergeron] and then [Marc] Savard," Julien told to the Bruins' website. "He came in and just took over, and that was the last month, when we were fighting for a playoff spot.
"He's known for those kind of finishes, and, again, he's starting to show us that he's ready to do it again."
Who's Hot: Bailey's two goals give him three in his last two games, which is exactly the same number he had since mid-December. Matt Moulson has four points in his last four games. P.A. Parenteau has 11 points in his last 10 games. … Krejci's hat trick gives him four goals in his last three.
Injury Report: Isles goalie Al Montoya (upper body) went back to Long Island early and was replaced on the roster by Anders Nilsson. Defenseman Dylan Reese (knee) is almost ready to return. … On the Bruins side, Johnny Boychuk (concussion) showed improvement and has been skating with the team, though a return date isn't set. Defenseman Andrew Ference (lower body) left Thursday's game in the third period and was not at practice Friday. Rich Peverley (torn MCL in right knee) is still on the 4-6 weeks timetable after taking a knee-on-knee hit from Hal Gill on Feb. 15. Nathan Horton (concussion) is still out but no doubt misses a chance to play the Islanders. He has 16 goals and 30 points in 27 career games against them.
Stat Pack: When you don't score, you usually don't win, and that certainly applies to the Islanders. In 26 wins, they've scored 3.26 goals per game versus 1.63 per game otherwise. … John Tavares has 182 career points so far, most by far among 2009 draft picks. He has also been on ice for Moulson's last 51 goals, assisting on 18 of Moulson's 27 this season. Moulson has opened the scoring 10 times so far and the Isles are 9-1-0 in those games. … Tyler Seguin's goal Thursday ended a 10-game drought. He still leads the NHL at plus-33. Team-wide, Boston's plus-minus numbers continue to amaze, though Krejci and Caron are laggards at minus-5 apiece, the only players on the active roster not at least even. … Neither team is hot on the power play, the Isles 1-for-15 and the Bruins 1-for-9.
Puck Drop: "You know, you can't just turn the switch on when the playoff comes. You've got to start now. It's 20 games to go, every game is important and you can't take a day off here, since now until the end of the season," he said. "You've got to go out there, do your best and try to get ready as much as you can for the playoffs. One game doesn't make a season. We've got to keep it going." -- Krejci on the Bruins' official site warning not to make too much of one game