Two of the top three teams in the Eastern Conference meet tonight at TD Garden as the Boston Bruins (21-7-7, 49 points) play host to the New York Islanders (22-8-2, 46 points). There will be a new look to the Bruins lines defensively tonight due to illness, while the forwards stay the same after an interesting practice on Wednesday.
This is the first of three meetings on the season between the sides, and the lone one at TD Garden. The Bruins will travel to Barclays Center in Brooklyn for the next meeting on January 11th. The final meeting is set for February 29th at NYCB Live Nassau Coliseum.
Puck drop is slated for 7:00 pm on NBCSN and 98.5 The Sports Hub.
The Bruins had ample chances to push their lead to two goals on Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Kings. They didn’t, and the Kings eventually tied the game and won in overtime. The Bruins feel they let a point slip away as they kicked off their four-game homestand with a loss.
“Obviously, we’ll keep moving forward,” Sean Kuraly said after practice on Wednesday. Kuraly was one of a handful of Bruins who had multiple chances to extend the lead in the third period.
“You never want to give up points that you think you could have, so that kind of stings a little bit, to give up some points that we feel like we left on the table. We played some good hockey and I think we’ve got a lot of room to grow, worked on some of those things [Wednesday]. We’re looking forward to a good Islanders team that we haven’t seen yet this year,” he continued.
The nature of an NHL season is that every team will inevitably go through ups and downs. The Bruins, thanks to last season’s run, know what they are capable of even in these lulls in a season.
“I think where we were, playing last year in the playoffs, is kind of where we want to get back to, and last spring,” said Kuraly. “I think if you saw us play back then, you kind of know where we can get to as a team. Think we’ve got some room to improve – puck possession, obviously execution and just all of the things that come with playing a little bit better.”
The eyes of Bruins fans everywhere were caught when Danton Heinen skated in place of Brad Marchand at practice on Wednesday morning. Marchand was not a full participant in the skate. It was later revealed by coach Bruce Cassidy that Marchand had a maintenance day. Brett Ritchie returned to the second line for practice as a result of the Bruins lines shuffling.
Zach Senyshyn skated as one of two extra forwards at practice. He was joined by Par Lindholm, who has been a frequent healthy scratch as of late. Senyshyn appears ready for game action as well. The forward was activated from injured reserve following practice and assigned to AHL Providence.
“It’s definitely been a long time coming and it’s definitely been nice to finally be back with the guys and be back on the ice,” Senyshyn said after practice.
Senyshyn had two assists in four games with the Bruins before his lower-body injury just over a month ago. He returns to a Providence team that he has played 12 games for this season. In those 12 games, he has registered three points (2 g, 1 a).
The Islanders will be an angry team when they take the ice tonight. They suffered an 8-3 loss on Tuesday night, surrendering seven unanswered goals after taking a 3-1 lead against the Nashville Predators. The loss was the first home-ice loss in regulation for the Islanders since October 8th against the Edmonton Oilers.
Barry Trotz has had a lot of success rotating in his goaltenders. Thomas Greiss made his 16th start of the season on Tuesday night. Both he and Semyon Varlamov have made 16 starts on the season. That’s an extremely rare feat. The Islanders are the first team since the 2006-07 San Jose Sharks to alternate starting goalies for the first 32 games of the season.
Nick Leddy played 19:31 on Tuesday night. It was his first game back after missing three games with a lower-body injury. Michael Dal Colle is not as fortunate. He’s still in the process of recovering from an upper-body injury and will miss tonight’s game. Dal Colle, per the club, has started to resume skating on his own.
Boston Bruins Lines
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk – David Krejci – Danton Heinen
Anders Bjork – Charlie Coyle – Chris Wagner
Joakim Nordstrom – Sean Kuraly – David Backes
Zdeno Chara – Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug – Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk – Connor Clifton
Bruins lines are subject to change, as always. After his maintenance day yesterday, Brad Marchand skated this morning and is expected to be in the lineup. Cassidy confirmed that Rask will get the start, while John Moore sits due to illness. Brett Ritchie and Par Lindholm are tonight’s healthy scratches for the Bruins. Karson Kuhlman and Kevan Miller remain on IR.
New York Islanders Lines
Ross Johnston – Mathew Barzal – Josh Bailey
Anthony Beauvillier – Brock Nelson – Tom Kuhnhackl
Anders Lee – Derick Brassard – Jordan Eberle
Matt Martin – Casey Cizikas – Cal Clutterbuck
Nick Leddy – Johnny Boychuk
Adam Pelech – Ryan Pulock
Devon Toews – Scott Mayfield
Kuhnhackl takes Leo Komarov’s spot in the lineup, while Varlamov gets the start per Trotz. Dal Colle remains out with injury, while Oliver Wahlstrom was recently loaned to Team USA for the upcoming World Junior Championships. Noah Dobson will be a healthy scratch. The Islanders are 0-6-1 in their last seven games against the Bruins.