In what could be their final game ever at Nassau Coliseum, the Boston Bruins (13-6-3, 29 pts, .659 %) will try to beat the first-place New York Islanders (15-6-4, 34 pts, .680%) for the first time this season and get their first win of the season at the old and storied barn in Uniondale, New York.
The Boston Bruins have gone 0-3-0 against the Islanders and were embarrassed in their last visit to the Coliseum in a 7-2 loss on Feb. 25 that saw them disintegrate in the third period, allowing five unanswered goals. In all three losses, the Bruins have struggled to get traffic in front of the net and create second chances. That will be the key tonight if the Bruins want to get their first win against the Isles this season and their first since a 4-0 shutout on Feb. 29, 2020.
“You’ve got to stay patient,” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy on Tuesday. “That’s who they are. They’re a good defensive team. We are as well. Some of these games in here have been low-scoring and tight-checking and they’ve found a way to have better third periods than us. That’s the bottom line. We’ve got to stick with it for 60 minutes.”
Since that 7-2 debacle, the Boston Bruins are 2-2-1 and the Islanders are 5-0-1. New York is also riding a five-game win streak and now leads the Bruins by five points in the East Division. With three games in hand on the Islanders though, a win for the Bruins tonight would be huge as they could then use those games in hand to pass the Islanders while they sit idle.
Jaroslav Halak (5-2-1, 2.24 GAA, .913 save percentage) gets a shot at redemption tonight after being lit up for all seven goals in that last game against the Islanders. Semyon Varlamov (11-4-3, 2.10 GAA, .926 save percentage) will get the nod for the Isles and try for a fourth straight win over the Bruins this season.
-Boston Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk will be a healthy scratch tonight after going seven straight games without a goal and scoring just once in 17 games this season. Cassidy and his staff have been as patient as they can with DeBrusk, who had 27 goals two seasons ago and 19 last season. According to Cassidy, there needs to be a better effort from DeBrusk if he wants to stay in the lineup.
“We’ve tried different angles with Jake,” Cassidy told the media Thursday. “He’s met with me and he’s met one-on-one with the coaches Joe [Sacco] and Jay [Pandolfo], and he’s met with his lines and talked to some of the veteran guys. At the end of the day, we’re just not getting out of Jake what we want,” said Cassidy of DeBrusk, who has had two or less shots on goal in each of his last five games. “At the end of the day some of it is situational and due to circumstance, he’s been moved around, he’s been hurt and the center he’s played with has been hurt.
“But I still feel he’s been given ice time to perform to the best of his ability and we just feel we’re not getting the effort required. It’s not always about the score sheet. It’s about being one of 20 guys helping you win, and some nights it’s there and some nights it’s not. You try different messaging with a player and sometimes sitting upstairs and getting a look is not a bad way to go to put a different perspective on it.”
– With DeBrusk sitting in the press box tonight, center Sean Kuraly draws in after being a healthy scratch himself for the last two games. Kuraly has two goals and two assists in 20 games this season.
-Dan Vladar will back up Halak as Tuukka Rask stayed home to rest after injuring himself Sunday.
–The Bruins went 0-for-2 on the powerplay in their 1-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Sunday and are now 15-for-62 on the man advantage this season. They’re 11th in the NHL with a 24.2 percent success rate.
-The Boston Bruins penalty kill was the lone bright spot Sunday killing off all three Devils’ powerplays. The Bruins PK is once again the best in the NHL with an 89.2 percent success rate. They’ve killed off 66 of 74 powerplay attempts against them.
– Islanders forward Jean-Gabriel Pageau has been a thorn in the Bruins side this season with four goals in three games against the Black and Gold. Pageau has nine goals and seven assists in 25 games this season.
– Let’s hope for Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney, he isn’t reminded first hand again of passing on Mathew Barzal three times in the first round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. If Barzal – who leads the Islanders in points with 22 points – scores another goal like the one he did against the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday, social media will surely light up Sweeney once again!
— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) March 6, 2021
-The Islanders are 14th in the NHL in powerplay with a 22.7 percent success rate going 14-for-66.
-The Islanders penalty kill has killed off 50 of the 60 powerplay attempts against them and ranked 7th in the NHL with 83.3 percent success rate.
Boston Bruins Lines
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Nick Ritchie – David Krejci – Jack Studnicka
Trent Frederic – Charlie Coyle – Craig Smith
Anders Bjork – Sean Kuraly – Chris Wagner
Matt Grzelcyk – Charlie McAvoy
Jakub Zboril – Connor Clifton
Jarred Tinordi – Urho Vaakanainen
New York Islanders Lines
Anders Lee — Mathew Barzal — Jordan Eberle
Anthony Beauvillier — Brock Nelson — Josh Bailey
Michael Dal Colle — Jean-Gabriel Pageau — Oliver Wahlstrom
Matt Martin — Casey Cizikas — Cal Clutterbuck
Adam Pelech — Ryan Pulock
Nick Leddy — Scott Mayfield
Andy Greene — Noah Dobson
Thanks to NYI Hockey Now writer Christian Arnold for the Islanders lines, pairings and probables for tonight’s game.