Bruins, Isles collide at Coliseum

( – The Boston Bruins hope to give their playoff hopes a big
second-half push on Thursday night as they visit the Metropolitan Division-
leading New York Islanders.

The Bruins are playing for the first time since last Wednesday’s 3-2 shootout
loss to the Colorado Avalanche, just their second loss in eight games. Boston
went 6-1-3 in its final 10 games before the All-Star break to grab a seven-
point advantage for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Rust may be a factor tonight as the Bruins also were unable to practice on
Tuesday due to a snowstorm in the area before finally hitting the ice on

“Obviously, the break was nice,” forward David Krejci told Boston’s website on
Wednesday. “I thought we were finding our game just before the break, so
unfortunately, we didn’t have practice (Tuesday), but I thought we did a
pretty good job today. So yeah, we’ve got to start where we left off, and now
we have to get back in a playoff position and try to climb up the standings.”

Boston appeared headed towards two points a week ago, but Colorado tied the
game with 1:45 left in regulation and then got the lone goal of the shootout
from Nathan MacKinnon.

MacKinnon buried a wrister past Tuukka Rask — who made 34 saves through
overtime — to begin the shootout, while Reilly Smith, David Pastrnak and
Patrice Bergeron all came up empty on their chances.

Torey Krug and Brad Marchand scored for the Bruins.

“We played a good 58 minutes of hockey tonight,” said Krug. “Killed a couple
of penalties, and then we just let them back in.”

Bergeron returns to the Bruins off an excellent showing in Sunday’s All-Star
Game as he scored a goal and assisted on four others. Coincidentally, all four
helpers came on goals scored by Islanders forward John Tavares.

Tavares picked up right where he left off on Tuesday as he scored in the
Islanders’ 4-1 win over the New York Rangers. It marked the third time in as
many meetings this season that the Isles have bested the rival Blueshirts,
doing so by a combined 13-4 margin.

Jaroslav Halak nearly picked up another shutout over the Rangers, but yielded
a goal with 8.1 seconds to play. He ended up with 40 saves two weeks after
shutting out the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

“Everybody did a great job tonight,” Halak said, “It’s too bad they scored at
the end, but it’s two points at home.”

The Isles lead the Pittsburgh Penguins by three points for first place in the

Mikhail Grabovski returned from a five-game absence caused by a lower-body
injury to score, while Matt Martin and Ryan Strome also scored. Johnny Boychuk
notched two assists in the victory.

Tavares, meanwhile, has three goals and seven points over his last four games
and helped the Islanders surge to a win despite Kyle Okposo missing his first
game with an upper-body injury that is expected to sideline him for 6-to-8

Okposo is second on the Isles with 44 points, two fewer than Tavares.

The Islanders won the first of three meetings this season with the Bruins,
taking a 3-2 decision at Boston on Oct. 23. Backup Chad Johnson made 30 saves
and Boychuk returned to Beantown for the first time since getting traded by
the Bruins to the Isles on Oct. 4.

Halak figures to start tonight and is 8-3-0 versus Boston with a 1.86 goals
against average, .942 save percentage and two shutouts in 11 games.

Though the Isles have won four of the past five meetings overall, the Bruins
have taken nine of their last 12 trips to Long Island and got 35 saves from
backup Niklas Svedberg in the earlier meeting.

However, that loss is best remembered for defenseman Zdeno Chara exiting early
with a knee injury that sidelined him for 19 games.

Rask, meanwhile, is 6-3-0 versus the Islanders with a 2.52 GAA and .920 save