The Boston Bruins got back in the win column on Thursday night when they took care of business against a playoff-bound Dallas Stars team. This afternoon, the Bruins (40-13-12, 92 points) get another stiff test as they travel to Long Island to battle the Islanders (35-20-8, 78 points).
It is the third and final meeting between the teams this season. Each of the previous two went to overtime, with the road team winning both games. This will also be the third different venue the teams play at this year. They played at TD Garden in Boston, Barclays Center in Brooklyn and now Nassau Coliseum on the Island.
Puck drop is set for 1:00 pm on NESN and 98.5 The Sports Hub.
Ritchie Fitting In
Nick Ritchie skated on a new-look second line Thursday night that featured David Krejci and fellow ex-Ducks forward Ondrej Kase. The trio looked solid and made an impact on the game, which snapped a two-game losing streak for the Bruins.
“It was nice to score, nice to win. It was a good night tonight,” Ritchie told reporters after his first goal and win with the Bruins. “Energy levels were a little higher and felt better on my legs. Definitely played a better game and the team played better as well.”
Ritchie played roughly 13 minutes on Thursday night, and although he started on that new-look second line, he appeared on three of the Bruins’ four offensive lines. His versatility is a key part of his value to Bruce Cassidy and the Bruins.
“I think Nick was much better than the other night, a little more into the game,” said Cassidy postgame. “Puck was finding him…he’s had a couple of days to acclimate a little bit. Listen, I’m not going to say he’s going to get two points every night, but he’ll probably be somewhere in between there and that’s what we expect out of him.
“A bigger body, especially in this type of game, I thought. They’re a heavy team, they finish checks and you’ve got to work to get to the net. And I thought he did a real good job with that.”
Chris Wagner left Thursday’s victory over the Stars after taking a roughing penalty. He will not play today against the Islanders after suffering an injury. The fourth line staple is dealing with an upper-body injury and is aiming for a return Tuesday night when the Bruins play a massive game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“Hopefully he gets back on the ice [on Saturday in Boston] if he’s feeling better,” Cassidy said Friday at Warrior Ice Arena. “If that’s the case, then Tuesday will be a good look for him. But we’ll know more [on Saturday].”
The Bruins are also without Connor Clifton, who is currently a scratch. Kevan Miller is trying to work his way back from a knee injury suffered last spring, while Joakim Nordstrom has been in and out of the lineup with injury/illness concerns almost all season long.
Tough Task Ahead
The Islanders added a key piece in JG Pageau at last Monday’s trade deadline. They are looking like a solid bet to make the postseason for the second year in a row under the guidance of Barry Trotz. This is a good team that plays a structured game, but also has some serious weapons in Jordan Eberle, Mathew Barzal and Brock Nelson.
“I think they’re a very good team,” said Torey Krug on Friday. “I think when we play them it’s typically a low-scoring game, testing each other’s patience typically. It’s a lot of fun. I think they’re a good matchup for us.”
The Bruins dropped a 3-2 shootout decision at home in December to the Islanders, but rebounded a month later in Brooklyn with an overtime victory. This is the final scheduled meeting between the teams this season. The Islanders currently occupy a Wild Card spot. They are a potential playoff opponent for the Bruins if they win the Atlantic Division.
Boston Bruins Lines
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Nick Ritchie – David Krejci – Ondrej Kase
Jake DeBrusk – Charlie Coyle – Karson Kuhlman
Sean Kuraly – Par Lindholm – Anders Bjork
Zdeno Chara – Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug – Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk – Jeremy Lauzon
Bruins lines against the Islanders are subject to change and are based on yesterday’s practice. Kuhlman replaces the injured Wagner, while Nordstrom could slot in for Bjork. They alternated on Friday at Warrior Ice Arena. John Moore, Connor Clifton and Anton Blidh are all confirmed scratches. Rask is today’s expected starters.
New York Islanders Lines
Anders Lee – Mathew Barzal – Jordan Eberle
Anthony Beauvillier – Brock Nelson – Derick Brassard
Michael Dal Cole – JG Pageau – Josh Bailey
Matt Martin – Otto Koivula – Leo Komarov
Nick Leddy – Ryan Pulock
Devon Toews – Scott Mayfield
Noah Dobson – Johnny Boychuk
Islanders lines against the Bruins are subject to change. Varlamov is the expected starter, but nothing has been confirmed by the Islanders at this time. Andy Greene, acquired from the Devils in advance of the deadline, remains out with an undisclosed injury. He is considered day-to-day. Cal Clutterbuck (wrist), Casey Cizikas (leg) and Adam Pelech (Achilles) are all on injured reserve.