The Boston Bruins (22-12-6, 50 points) will get a couple more chances to take down the New York Islanders (27-11-4, 58 points) after a series of losses to the rock-solid hockey club this season.
The Bruins have lost all five times they’ve faced the Islanders, including a pair of extra session defeats, and the third periods have been disasters pretty much all season. Usually, the third period is a point of strength for the Black and Gold, but the Islanders have very clearly beaten them at their own game this season.
The Islanders have outscored the Bruins 10-1 in the third period this season, and that clearly hasn’t gone unnoticed by the powers that be with the Black and Gold.
“We’ve said this: They’ve outplayed us in the third period. You’ve got to play winning hockey at crunch time against good teams, and they’ve been better than us in that area for whatever reason,” said Bruce Cassidy. “It’s been a number of different reasons. It’s been shorthanded goals. It’s been turnovers in front of our net. Other times we’ve just been beaten by speed when we weren’t ready for it. We just have to better. We’ve been in every game with them.”
Of course, none of those games took place with the new guys in place as Taylor Hall, Mike Reilly and Curtis Lazar were all added at the NHL trade deadline and looked good in their opening nights with the Black and Gold.
“Three guys that helped us win a hockey game. That’s their job,” said Bruce Cassidy of Hall, Mike Reilly and Curtis Lazar after they all played after driving to Boston from Buffalo and Ottawa in order to play in the shootout win over the Sabres. “We’ll build them in as we go and see how best they fit. But the first impressions were good. Taylor Hall, I’d like to keep with [David] Krejci. Lazar could go to the wing, but I liked where he was [at center]. Right off the top of the head they will stay [where they played], but Matt Grzelcyk and his progress could impact who [Mike] Reilly plays with [on defense].”
“[Hall] certainly creates in space. I thought he did a good job off the rush of finding the open guy, overtime obviously he looked dangerous and had a nice back-check as well. So good speed. We’ll sit down with him tomorrow for the coaching part of it and have a discussion with him for his feedback about the details, and the structure. I don’t want to overanalyze it too much in the first game.”
The good news: Tuukka Rask (8-4-2, 2.40 goals against average, 907 save percentage) is returning for the Bruins and he’s been excellent against the Islanders with 2.21 goals against average and .923 save percentage in a pair of games. He also has played just one period of hockey since March 7 and is attempting to return from a suspected back injury that’s kept him out for over a month, so there are plenty of question marks surrounding the B’s No. 1 goaltender.
Ilya Sorokin (11-3-1, 2.17 goals against average and .915 save percentage) was expected to get the start for the Islanders, but was Semyon Varlamov (16-8-3, 2.21 goals against average and a .922 save percentage) getting the nod after having won each of his five outings against the Boston Bruins this season. How can you go against that kind of mojo if you’re Barry Trotz?
–Boston Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo has been downgraded from day-to-day to week-to-week with his upper-body injury and isn’t expected to return to game action for the Boston Bruins anytime soon. Carlo had just returned on March 30, from a month-long absence due to a concussion suffered after a Tom Wilson headshot. The good news is that Carlo’s current upper body injury isn’t related to the concussion, which could have been very problematic. Matt Grzelcyk is out with an upper body injury and hasn’t resumed skating. Trent Frederic has missed the last few games with an illness that isn’t COVID-related but returned to regular practice on Wednesday. Boston Bruins winger Ondrej Kase remains on IR with an upper-body injury. While Kase has been skating, his return date is not known.
— A red-hot Craig Smith has three goals and 10 points along with a plus-5 rating in eight games during the month of April and has piled up five goals and 15 points in 13 games since the middle of March.
Smith’s 1.68 assists per 60 minutes and 2.4 points per 60 minutes during 5-on-5 action are both career highs for the veteran winger after being a mainstay on the third line for the Preds.
— Boston Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller will end up being out of the lineup on Thursday night after it was initially thought he was going to play against the Islanders. The good news is that it isn’t a knee issue for the stay-at-home defenseman, but his warrior presence is greatly missed when he’s not out there.
“[Miller] is just such a hard player to play against, and he gives us so much energy and confidence back there,” said Brad Marchand. “He really just controls the D-corps back there and makes a lot of guys feel comfortable back there. He calms them down when things aren’t going great. He’s a real leader in our group. He just has such a presence on the ice. Guys [on the other team] don’t want to go anywhere near him.”
–Charlie McAvoy returned to the lineup on Tuesday and appears fully recovered from the upper body injury that knocked him out for four games.
—Kyle Palmieri scored his first goal as a member of the Islanders on Sunday in a win against the Rangers and has been a Bruins Killer all season while with the New Jersey Devils.
–Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock scored his first goal of the season in 42 games played for an OT game-winner against the Rangers on Sunday. Pulock now has one goal and 15 points this season and felt a little weight had been lifted off with the game-winner.
“Obviously for me, throughout my career I’ve been able to score a little bit,” Pulock said. “To go through a little slump like that is tough, and as the games wore on, it got tougher. I knew I just needed to get that one and obviously it came in a big moment. I’m excited about that.”
–Veteran defenseman Braydon Coburn joined the Islanders for practice on Wednesday and will travel with the team to Boston after being dealt to the Isles from the Ottawa Senators earlier this week.
Boston Bruins Lines
New York Islanders
Travis Zajac-Mat Barzal-Jordan Eberle
Anthony Beauvillier-Brock Nelson-Josh Bailey
Kyle Palmieri-Jean-Gabriel Pageau-Oliver Wahlstrom
Matt Martin-Casey Cizikas-Cal Clutterbuck
Adam Pelech-Ryan Pulock
Nick Leddy-Scott Mayfield
Andy Greene-Noah Dobson
An appreciative stick tap to our friend Christian Arnold at New York Islanders Hockey Now for the help with the projected lineup and goalie for the Isles.