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Ice Breakers: Bruins-Islanders, Wednesday April 6th

The Bruins (44-24-11) return home to TD Garden to host another team from the Empire State tonight, as the New York Islanders (30-37-12) come to Boston.

On Monday night, the B’s traveled to the Big Apple to face off with the Rangers. The first 30 minutes went according to plan, earning themselves a three goal lead midway through the second period. Then the B’s put it in cruise control, but watched the Blue Shirts speed right past them, en route to a 5-3 comeback win that the Rangers needed badly to help their playoff positioning. Meanwhile, Bruins fans were left with that same icky feeling they had about 11 months ago, after an historic Game 7 collapse in the playoffs against Philadelphia.

But putting that in the past, the B’s take aim at three more opponents to wrap up their regular season, all teams with no shot at playoff contention. To get you ready for tonight’s contest, let’s roll some pre-game notes your way…

  • Tonight marks the fourth and final meeting of the season between these two squads. The Bruins won the first two games handily, but dropped their most recent matchup, 4-2 to New York, back on March 11th.
  • The Islanders have lost four of their last five games, including Saturday’s 4-2 home loss to Carolina. Their recent woes have put them at risk to fall into the Eastern Conference cellar by season’s end. New York’s 72 points is good for a tie with Ottawa for 13th place in the East, just two points above cellar-dwelling Florida for the bottom spot.
  • The Bruins went back to work yesterday at the practice rink, taking some punishment for the lackluster effort they put in during the second half of Monday’s collapse against the Rangers. All players participated, including Shawn Thornton, who has missed the team’s last three games after suffering a huge cut on his forehead, a gash that required over 40 stitches to close. Those stitches are scheduled to be removed this afternoon, which could lead to the gritty winger being cleared medically to return to the lineup this evening.
  • On a related topic, yesterday it was announced that Thornton was named the Bruins’ nominee for this year’s Masterton Trophy, an award given to the player who “best exemplifies the qualities of perserverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.” The winner of this year’s Masterton Trophy will be announced at the NHL Awards show from Las Vegas, on June 22nd. The Bruins nominee to win the award was just a few years back, when Phil Kessel earned the nod after fighting through his bout with cancer.
  • Zdeno Chara ended another player’s season in Monday night’s game, but this time the authorities weren’t notified and Chara shouldn’t have to pose for any mug shots anytime soon. In the second period against New York, a powerful slapper off the stick of Chara struck Rangers forward Ryan Callahan with quite a charge. One of New York’s leading scorers, Callahan suffered a broken ankle on the play, and will likely miss the rest of the regular season and the playoffs, unless the Rangers make a deep run.
  • Jumping back to tonight’s New York opponent, the Islanders scoring is led by John Tavares (28G, 36A), P.A. Parenteau (19G, 32A), Matt Moulson (31G, 20A), and rookie Michael Grabner (31G, 17A).
  • The Islanders are one of nine NHL teams that currently boast two 30-goal scorers, and are one of four teams that have a decent shot at getting three to that 30-goal plateau by season’s end. If Tavares can notch two more goals in the team’s final three games, it’ll be the first time since the ’93-’94 season that New York has three 30-goal scorers, and in that season, they had four. The other teams that could get to three 30-goal scorers this season… Toronto (Kessel and Kulemin have 30, Grabovski has 29), Chicago (Sharp has 34, Toews has 31, and Kane has 27), and Anaheim (Perry has 47, Ryan has 34, and Selanne has 28).
  • Goaltending for New York is headed up by former B.U. Terrier, Rick DiPietro (8-12-4, 3.35GAA) and Al Montoya (9-5-4, 2.37GAA). Montoya’s .921 save percentage puts him in the running to potentially set a new franchise record for goaltenders who appear in at least 20 games. The current record holder is DiPietro, who posted a .919 save percentage in ’06-’07.
  • Speaking of save percentage, Tim Thomas could be setting some bigger records of his own at the end of this season. Since the stat began being tracked 27 seasons ago, the best save percentage for a single season was put up by Dominik Hasek, who had a .9366 mark back in ’98-’99. Thomas comes into tonight’s action with a .9376 number.
  • Oh, one last thing… a quick programming note for tonight. With that lousy Red Sox team also in action tonight, you might be wondering where to find each game. Well tonight, the Bruins get top billing, as their game will air as normal on NESN, beginning at 7pm. The Red Sox-Indians game will be televised on NESN Plus. You can go to NESN.com to find what channel NESN Plus is on your cable provider… if you’re even interested in watching that garbage baseball team!

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