Banged-up Bruins host Isles
BOSTON — Rick Middleton’s name is all over the Boston Bruins‘ record books.
It hasn’t been enough to send the man they call ‘Nifty’ into the Hall of Fame — but it is enough to get his No. 16 raised to the TD Garden rafters prior to Thursday night’s game against the New York Islanders.
Acquired from the New York Rangers in exchange for Ken Hodge — the latter reunited with Phil Esposito in New York, Middleton is third in goals (402), even strength goals (275), and shooting percentage (20.0), fourth in points (898) goals created (357.2), and goals for on ice (1,319), fifth in power play goals (102), sixth in assists (496) and game winning goals (52), tied for sixth in hat tricks), seventh in shots (2,007), eighth in games played (881) and goals per game (0.46) and 10th in plus-minus (plus-220).
Oh, and he’s the team’s all-time leader with 25 short-handed goals.
“Loved ‘Nifty,’ even though I was a defenseman,” said current Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. “Crafty. One-on-one. Played in traffic. I liked watching him and Barry Pederson feed off each other.”
Cassidy’s banged-up team (13-7-4) comes home for a two-game homestand after a split of a Montreal/Toronto trip — and still looking for more production.
The Bruins, top heavy with the Patrice Bergeron line doing much of the scoring, is now without Bergeron, who suffered an upper body injury that will cost him a month. General manager Don Sweeney admitted Monday he is searching for a possible trade for offense — and the Bruins recalled Ryan Donato from Providence, where he had nine points in 10 games since his demotion.
The defense, missing as many as six regulars at one point, has lost Kevan Miller again, this time for at least five weeks with larynx damage suffered when he took a puck to the throat in Toronto.
“He plays his heart out. That’s two blocked shots that have put him out,” said Cassidy. “We’ll miss him.”
Brandon Carlo, who has been out since Nov. 10 with a shoulder/collarbone injury, returned to practice Wednesday and expects to play either Thursday or Saturday against the Detroit Red Wings. Meanwhile, Charlie McAvoy (concussion) has been skating but took a day off Wednesday — a move not considered a setback.
The Islanders (12-9-2) will “re-open” their old home, the Nassau Coliseum, Saturday night. First, they have the Bruins and are coming off a 4-1 loss to the Washington Capitals in Brooklyn Monday night.
The Bruins swept three games from the Isles last season.
“We’re headed in the right direction,” coach Barry Trotz. “We’re trending in the right direction from a total hockey standpoint, from the people running it, such as Lou (GM Lamoriello), and the infrastructure behind that.”
Hard-working forward Casey Cizikas, who has missed the last six games with a lower body injury, was removed from IR and will be back for Thursday night’s game.
“He brings a lot of intangibles,” said Trotz, whose new team lost to his old team — the defending Stanley Cup champions — Monday night, in a game played after Trotz received his championship ring.
The Bruins have alternated Jaroslav Halak and Tuukka Rask since Rask returned from a three-day personal absence, leaving Rask in line for Thursday. He is an impressive 12-5-0 with a 2.22 goals-against average and .930 save percentages lifetime against the Islanders.
Halak, who spent his last four seasons playing for the Islanders, was 7-1-1 with a 1.53 GAA and .950 save percentage against New York before going there.
Thomas Greiss has played three straight and seven of the last eight games in goal for New York. He is 8-4-1 on the season and is 2-3-0 with a 1.63 GAA and .950 save percentage lifetime against the Bruins.
Robin Lehner, who has struggled this season with his new team (4-5-1), is just 4-11-3 with a 2.71 GAA and .922 save percentage all-time against Boston.