The Boston Bruins (26-8-11, 63 points) will get a big boost tonight as Zdeno Chara returns to the lineup. The captain missed Thursday’s dramatic victory over the Winnipeg Jets at TD Garden. Tonight, the Bruins are in Brooklyn to battle the New York Islanders (27-12-3, 57 points) in the second of three meetings on the season.
The Islanders defeated the Bruins 3-2 in a shootout at TD Garden on December 19th. Puck drop is at 7:00 pm on NESN and 98.5 The Sports Hub.
After missing his second game in less than a month with follow-up issues with his jaw injury from June, the Bruins captain will be in the lineup tonight against the Islanders. Chara was adamant on Friday that he was good to go, and the club later confirmed that he would return in Brooklyn.
“I feel ready to go and at least I want to play,” Chara said. “I feel ready to go for tomorrow.” Chara will play his 999th game as a Bruins tonight in Brooklyn. That sets the stage for a historic night against the Flyers on Monday.
It wasn’t easy getting Chara to sit out on Thursday, especially as the Bruins tried to build momentum after Tuesday’s win in Nashville. Chara is a veteran, however, and understands sometimes it is better to take a step back and rest.
“Of course I want to play but sometimes you have to listen to your body, you have to listen to the doctors,” he said. “I think a decision was made for the right reasons. So today’s a new day and I’m getting ready obviously for tomorrow’s game.”
Chara is hoping that taking the cautious approach on Thursday will allow him to avoid any other issues with the jaw moving forward.
“I hope so,” Chara told reporters on Friday. “It’s very unfortunate. Sometimes these things happen for whatever reasons and this one obviously came out of nowhere on the morning of the Nashville game. So we were taking precautionary actions and monitoring it closely. So that’s just where it’s at right now.”
Depth Steps Up
Sean Kuraly, Chris Wagner and Joakim Nordstrom have provided the Bruins with steady, strong play as of late. The fourth line dealt with a little adversity on Thursday night. Wagner was sent off by the concussion spotter, forcing David Pastrnak into a double-shifting role. Pastrnak was impressed by what the veterans brought to the table.
“Sean was flying around the puck, Nordy was fore-checking and Wags was just doing his thing,” Pastrnak told the club’s official website. “He had seven shots, so they could easily come up with a couple goals, too, so next game might be their game…they’ve been together for a while. They have chemistry and when they play like this, they are extremely strong on the puck and they create a lot of chances and turnovers. They had a hell of a game [Thursday].”
They’re offensive contributions against the Predators and Jets were a nice touch. It is their defensive ability, however, that keeps catching the eye of Bruce Cassidy.
“First of all, they’re typically out there against a good offensive line, so right away, the next line over the boards is not having to deal with an attack-oriented line,” said Cassidy. “In general, it builds momentum for us, especially if the line change is clean. They punt it out; we’re on the ice getting going back with some transition before they’re set, so I think it just rolls us into a more offensive game when they’re on.”
Inside The Numbers
The Bruins have loved this matchup in recent seasons. The Bruins have won eight-straight games against the Islanders as the road team, including five straight wins at the Barclay’s Center. The other three wins came at NYCB Live on Long Island.
For the Islanders, this will feel more like a road trip than a home game. They haven’t played at Barclay’s Center since November 30th. All of their home games in December and the early portion of January have been played at NYCB Live. Keep that in mind tonight when looking at the conditions of the ice in Brooklyn.
The Islanders four goals on Tuesday night were vital for a struggling team. It snapped an ugly four-game stretch where the Isles failed to score more than one goal.
Boston Bruins Lines
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk – David Krejci – Anders Bjork
Danton Heinen – Charlie Coyle – Brett Ritchie
Joakim Nordstrom – Sean Kuraly – Chris Wagner
Zdeno Chara – Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug – Brandon Carlo
John Moore – Matt Grzelcyk
As always, Bruins lines are subject to change. David Backes rotated in with Ritchie on Friday at Warrior Ice Arena. Par Lindholm also rotated in, taking some drills in place of Nordstrom. Lindholm, Backes and Steven Kampfer are expected to be scratched this evening. Tuukka Rask is the expected starter, but Cassidy has yet to announce his goaltender.
New York Islanders Lines
Anthony Beauvillier – Mathew Barzal – Josh Bailey
Anders Lee – Brock Nelson – Jordan Eberle
Michael Dal Colle – Derick Brassard – Tom Kuhnhackl
Matt Martin – Casey Cizikas – Leo Komarov
Nick Leddy – Ryan Pulock
Devon Toews – Scott Mayfield
Noah Dobson – Johnny Boychuk
Islanders lines are subject to change. The club assigned defenseman Sebastian Aho to AHL Bridgeport on Friday. Cal Clutterbuck and Adam Pelech both remain on the IR and will not play. Pelech’s season is over with an Achilles tendon injury.