Rolling Bruins visit scuffling Islanders
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NEW YORK -- The Boston Bruins hope to begin 2018 by picking up where they left off in 2017. The New York Islanders, meanwhile, need a fresh start more than perhaps any playoff contender.
A pair of potential playoff teams traveling in different directions will meet Tuesday night when the Islanders host the Bruins at Barclays Center.
Both teams were off New Year's Day. The Bruins extended their point streak to eight games Saturday with a 5-0 blanking of the host Ottawa Senators. The Islanders exited 2017 in disappointing fashion Sunday, when they capped a winless two-game road trip by falling 6-1 to the Colorado Avalanche.
The recent hot streak by the Bruins (21-10-6) has all but ensured a trip to the playoffs. Boston is tied with the Toronto Maple Leafs for second place in the Atlantic Division, a whopping nine points ahead of the Montreal Canadiens.
"We're feeling good," said Bruins center David Krejci, who scored a goal Saturday in his return from a six-game absence caused by an upper-body injury. "You don't want to get too ahead of yourself. Just stay in the moment, focus on the next game, what happened today, enjoy tomorrow and come back at it."
The Islanders (20-15-4) enjoyed nothing about a trip to Winnipeg and Colorado in which they were outscored 10-3 by the Jets and Avalanche. New York coach Doug Weight capped the forgettable excursion by earning a rare ejection from the Sunday game, which was New York's first regulation loss on New Year's Eve since 1998.
"He just wanted to show some passion," said Islanders assistant coach Luke Richardson, who took over for Weight behind the bench. "Our team as a whole, we got out-battled from one end of the ice to the other, and your leader's got to show some passion. It wasn't there, and Doug did that. Sometimes it's extreme, but when a game like this goes against us, you've got to be extreme."
Despite the sour ending to December -- a month in which they went just 5-8-2 -- the Islanders enter Tuesday with sole possession of the second wild card in the Eastern Conference, one point ahead of their Metropolitan Division rivals, the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Islanders began trying to shake things up Monday, when they sent left winger Anthony Beauvillier and right winger Steve Bernier to Bridgeport of the AHL and recalled right winger Tanner Fritz from the same affiliate.
Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said Monday that Tuukka Rask, who stopped all 25 shots he faced Saturday, would start on Tuesday. Rask is 11-5-0 in 17 games against the Islanders.
The Islanders did not announce a goalie in advance, though it seems likely backup Thomas Greiss will get a shot after Jaroslav Halak gave up five goals in two periods Sunday. Halak made the past five starts for New York.
Greiss is 2-3-0 in five career appearances against the Bruins. Halak is 8-7-0 in 15 games against Boston.
After the Tuesday game, the Bruins return home to face the Florida Panthers on Thursday, while the Islanders visit the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday.
Updated January 2, 2018