Before we preview the fifth meeting of the season between the Boston Bruins and New York Islanders, we’d be remiss if we didn’t say welcome back to the roughly 2,300 fans who will be in attendance at TD Garden tonight!
For the first time since March 7, 2020, when the Boston Bruins lost 5-3 to the Tampa Bay Lightning in an old-fashioned donnybrook at packed Garden, the Bruins will play in front of their fans and they couldn’t be more excited.
“We’ve played a lot of road games. The comforts of home hopefully are good to us,” head coach Bruce Cassidy told the media after a rare night practice on Wednesday. “Get some fans in the building. That will give you energy. I think players are kind of pining for that now. It’s been a long time without fans and (having) to create your own energy. The buildings I’ve been in recently with fans, it just seems like it’s a little, even though there’s not that many, it’s just a different atmosphere. It’s getting back to the old normal, so to speak.”
Captain Patrice Bergeron concurred.
“Definitely excited about that,” Bergeron said of the game going on as planed after the Bruins had to postpone not just what was supposed to be the first game with fans on Tuesday (vs. the Islanders) but also their game at Buffalo last Saturday.
“Probably the best news of the week is that we get to play (Thursday) in front of our fans. Looking forward to that, obviously. It’s been a while. … Happy there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”
There’s also light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to getting players back from both NHL COVID Protocol and the jammed pack Bruins injury list. Cassidy confirmed on Thursday morning that Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask will return to game action for the first time since March 7 and start against the Islanders tonight. Rask (lower-back) hasn’t suited up for the last six games since skating off the ice in pain during the waning moments of a 1-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils at TD Garden. The 2020 Vezina Trophy finalist is 8-4-2 with a 2.46 goals-against average and .906 save percentage.
-Forwards David Pastrnak, David Krejci, and Craig Smith have all been cleared to play after spending the last five days on the NHL COVID Protocol List. Sean Kuraly and Jake DeBrusk were still on the list as of 2 PM ET Thursday. Forward Trent Frederic (lower-body) and defenseman Mark Tinordi (upper-body) are game-time decisions.
Forward Zach Senyshyn (upper-body) is nearing a return but will not play tonight. Defensemen Brandon Carlo (upper-body), Jeremy Lauzon (broken hand), and Kevan Miller (knee) are also skating but will remain out of the lineup. Forward Ondrej Kase (upper-body) remains on injured reserve and is likely gone for the season and defenseman John Moore (undisclosed) had surgery this week and could be out for awhile as well.
– The Boston Bruins are yet to beat the first-place Islanders this season going 0-3-1 in the first four games between the two clubs that were all played at Nassau Coliseum. The last time the two teams met, the Bruins lost 2-1 in a shootout.
– The Bruins are beginning a seven-game homestand at TD Garden. They’re also beginning a stretch of three games in four days and four games in six days to finish the month of March.
–The Bruins are 21-for-84 on the man advantage this season. They’re 9th in the NHL with a 25.0 percent success rate.
– Despite not playing in a week, the Bruins penalty kill has remained the best in the NHL with an 89.4 percent success rate. They’ve killed off 84 of 94 powerplay attempts against them.
– Center Mathew Barzal (9g, 16a) leads the Islanders in points with 25. Captain Anders Lee and forward Brock Nelson lead the team in goals with 12 apiece and defenseman Nick Leddy leads the team in assissts with 20 helpers.
– Islanders forward Jean-Gabriel Pageau has been a thorn in the Bruins side this season with four goals in four games against the Black and Gold. Pageau has 10 goals and 10 assists in 32 games this season.
– Lee is out for the season with a torn ACL and defenseman Noah Dobson is off the COVID list but will not rejoin the team until after their current three-game road trip.
-The Islanders are 15th in the NHL on the powerplay with a 20.5 percent success rate going 18-for-88.
-The Islanders’ penalty kill has killed off 67 of the 81 powerplay attempts against them and ranked 10th in the NHL with an 82.7 percent success rate.
Boston Bruins Lines
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Nick Ritchie – David Krejci – Craig Smith
Anders Bjork – Charlie Coyle – Karson Kuhlman
Trent Frederic – Greg McKegg – Chris Wagner
Matt Grzelcyk – Charlie McAvoy
Jakub Zboril – Connor Clifton
Jarred Tinordi – Steven Kampfer
New York Islanders Lines
Leo Komarov — Mathew Barzal — Jordan Eberle
Michael Dal Colle — Brock Nelson — Josh Bailey
Anthony Beauvillier — Jean-Gabriel Pageau — Oliver Wahlstrom
Cal Clutterbuck — Casey Cizikas — Matt Martin
Adam Pelech — Ryan Pulock
Nick Leddy — Andy Greene
Thomas Hickey — Scott Mayfield
Thanks to NYI Hockey Now writer Christian Arnold for the Islanders lines, pairings and probables for tonight’s game.
Welcome back Boston Bruins fans!