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Ice Breakers: Bruins-Islanders, Friday March 11th

With just 15 games left in their regular season, the Bruins (38-20-9) hope to right the ship tonight on Long Island, where they will kick off their four-game road trip at Nassau Coliseum against the New York Islanders (26-32-10).

It’s been a long, bumpy road this week for the Black and Gold, coupling two division losses with the ongoing Zdeno Chara/Max Pacioretty saga. Nonetheless, the team has to get back on the winning track, as they battle for playoff positioning in the tight Eastern Conference standings. By at least earning one point in last night’s 4-3 overtime loss to Buffalo, the B’s extended their division lead over Montreal to four points, after the Habs fell to the lowly St. Louis Blues last night. Boston’s 85 points has them sitting in third place in the East, one point behind Southeast Division leading Washington.

As for the Islanders, while the team isn’t mathematically eliminated from playoff contention this season, New York has much better odds of winning the draft lottery than of winning themselves a playoff spot. The Islanders are 14th in the East, only above dreadful Ottawa, and are a dozen points behind the eighth place Rangers for the final playoff spot, with 14 games left on their schedule. The team has been playing better as of late, winning three of their last four and taking at least a point in their last five games overall, including a 4-3 OT win over the Maple Leafs Tuesday night. The Islanders are still really a few years away from truly contending in the Eastern Conference.

Off we go with another game preview, so let’s roll out the pre-game notes for this evening…

Setting the Stage

Tonight marks the third of four meetings between these two squads this season. Boston has won both games so far, winning 5-2 and 6-3.

The B’s have won 10 of their last 12 games against the Islanders, with a 5-0-1 mark in their last six trips to Uniondale, NY.

Boston’s Recent Performances

Tonight, Boston gets rolling on a four-game road trip, which will be their last multi-game voyage away from TD Garden this season. After this trip concludes, eight of the final 11 contests left on the schedule will be played on Causeway Street.

Despite the recent struggles, losing three straight, Boston has managed to earn at least a point in nine of their last 10 games, going 7-1-2 during that stretch.

The Bruins continue to have powerless power play units. With an 0-for-3 night on the man-advantage last night, the team is now mired in an 0-for-19 stretch over their past eight games.

Boston’s Top Line

One line that is hitting on all cylinders lately however, is the top line of David Krejci, Milan Lucic, and Nathan Horton. At least one from this trio has scored in 10 straight games, with Horton lighting the lamp last night in the loss to Buffalo. Krejci and Lucic, who assisted on the Horton goal, are currently riding four-game point streaks, with each earning five points in their last four games.

With their recent scoring success, both Krejci and Lucic have surpassed Patrice Bergeron for the team’s point lead, but by a very narrow margin. Krejci enters tonight atop the Boston stat sheet with 52 points (10G, 42A), followed by Lucic who is one point behind (29G, 22A). Bergeron ranks third with 50 points (21G, 29A).

The New Yorker(s)

Looking at the top of New York’s stat sheet, you’ll find youngster John Tavares (24G, 31A), followed by wingers Matt Moulson (28G, 15A) and P.A. Parenteau (15G, 27A). Rookie Michael Grabner ranks fourth in points on the team (27G, 14A), and also ranks fourth among NHL rookies in points. His 27 goals leads all NHL rookies, putting him right in the mix for this year’s Calder trophy for the league’s top freshman.

The goalie crease for New York has been a revolving door all season long, with five different netminders manning the fort this year. Nowadays, the pairing of Al Montoya (6-2-2, 2.02GAA) and Nathan Lawson (1-4-2, 4.12GAA) share the workload.

Legal Hockey

Lastly, I mentioned in yesterday’s “Ice Breakers” preview about the 3rd annual Congressional Hockey Challenge taking place at the Verizon Center in D.C. last night. While Massachusetts Senator John Kerry did manage to earn himself the game’s Second Star award, his team, “The Lawmakers,” fell to “The Lobbyists,” 5-3. The game, which featured several politicians from across the country, raised just north of $100,000 for the Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Club from the D.C. area. Reports out of the nation’s capital indicate that Kerry did not hit anyone hard enough to warrant any police action or sponsorship withdrawals from major airline companies. Good for you for keeping it clean out there, Mr. Senator.

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