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Ice Breakers: Bruins-Islanders, Thursday February 17th

The Bruins (31-19-7) will kick off their six-game road trip this evening on Long Island, as they visit Nassau Colisseum to take on the red hot New York Islanders (21-29-7). Yes, you read that right… the RED HOT New York Islanders!

Winners of four straight and five of their last six, the Islanders have dug themselves out of the Eastern Conference cellar. Their offense has exploded out of nowhere as of late, highlighted by a nine-goal outburst Friday night in the slugfest win over Pittsburgh. The Isles followed that game up with a seven-goal total in an overtime victory against Buffalo. Don’t look now… the Islanders are a force to be reckoned with. Heck, if it weren’t for that ridiculous 1-17-3 stretch from mid-October to early December, maybe New York would be sniffing the playoffs this season.

As for the B’s, they hit a new season low on Tuesday night, dropping their third straight in regulation, 4-3 to lowly Toronto, a team that hadn’t beaten the Bruins in Boston in almost two years. Stuck at 69 points, Boston now shares the Northeast Division lead with the hated Habs, but do have one game in hand on Montreal. This is the first three-game regulation losing streak of the season, and here’s hoping the B’s don’t stretch their current drought to four.

It’s been a while since the B’s and Isles have faced off, so let’s get you reacquainted with them through some pre-game notes…

  • Tonight marks the second of four meetings between these two squads this season. Boston held a narrow 3-2 lead in their first meeting back on December 9th, before adding two empty-net goals in the final minutes to pull away with a 5-2 victory.
  • This six-game road trip is the longest of the season for the Bruins, which might not be a bad thing. Boston boasts the league’s second best road record right now, at 16-7-4, only trailing Philadelphia’s 19-6-3 mark.
  • News out of the team indicates that newly acquired Chris Kelly may not make his Bruin debut tonight on Long Island. Kelly, a native Canadian, is having problems acquiring a work visa, so he may not join the team until Friday, when the B’s head north of the border to face Kelly’s former team, the Ottawa Senators. Kelly, a solid two-way forward, was acquired in a trade Tuesday that sent a second-round pick to Ottawa. The 30-year-old Kelly, who will wear number 23 for Boston, had 12 goals and 11 assists in 57 games with Ottawa this season. When he does join the team, he’s expected to slot in as the third-line center, bumping rookie Tyler Seguin to the wing.
  • While Boston may be missing Kelly, the Islanders will still be without forwards Trevor Gillies and Matt Martin, who are both serving out suspensions that stemmed from the brawl Friday night against the Penguins. Gillies was handed a nine-game suspension, while Martin will sit out four games.
  • The Islanders will try to win their fifth straight game tonight, something they haven’t done since February of 2008, when they had a six-game win streak.
  • With veterans Dwayne Roloson traded last month to Tampa and Rick DiPietro nursing a facial fracture that has him out at least a month, the Islanders are left with a patchwork trio of goaltenders for the time being. Nathan Lawson (1-3-1, 3.86GAA), Mikko Koskinen (2-1-0, 4.33GAA), and Al Montoya (1-0-0, 3.16GAA) will carry the workload until DiPietro’s return. Each goalie has started at least once during the team’s four-game win streak, so it’s anyone’s guess who gets the nod tonight against Boston.
  • New York’s scoring is led by young centerman John Tavares (21G, 26A), followed by three wingers tied with 35 points a piece; rookie Michael Grabner (25G, 10A), Matt Moulson (21G, 14A), and P.A. Parenteau (14G, 21A), who today signed a one-year extension with the team worth $1.25 million.
  • Lastly, a short plug for a great event the Boston Bruins Foundation is holding during the upcoming long weekend. On Sunday night at 5pm, the charity will host the first Boston Bruins Casino Night at The Westin Copley Place. For the cost of admission ($150 for general admission, $125 for season ticket holders), you’ll get the opportunity to play casino games like craps, blackjack, and Texas Hold’Em against players from the current Bruins roster, along with several alumni and management. Check out www.bostonbruins.com for more information and to get tickets.

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