The All-Star break didn’t slow down the New York Islanders, and the Boston Bruins are looking for similar results.
The Islanders will try to grab sole possession of the Eastern Conference lead Thursday night, while the Bruins return from the layoff looking to continue their momentum.
The Islanders (32-14-1) have won six of seven and are 13-4-1 in their last 18 after beating the New York Rangers 4-1 on Tuesday. They’re tied with Detroit – which faces Tampa Bay – for the most points in the conference.
"We keep getting points each game," said Jaroslav Halak, who had 40 saves after appearing in his first All-Star game on Sunday. "The second half is going to be even harder than the first half."
The Bruins (25-16-7) would surely share that sentiment, as they occupy the second wild-card spot after going 6-1-1 to match their win total from the previous 19 games (6-7-6).
"I think we were definitely happy with how we finished going into the break," left wing Brad Marchand told the team’s official website. "We were playing much better hockey and winning a lot more games, which was really nice, but a break can be good or bad, depending on how you treat it.
"So the biggest thing is that we realize the situation we’re still in. We’re not secure in a playoff spot yet, so we want to make sure that we come back and continue to get better."
Marchand has two goals in three games, giving him a team-leading 13. He’s netted three while setting up seven others in his last five games on Long Island, collecting four points in a 6-3 victory there Jan. 27, 2014.
Marchand didn’t factor in the scoring in a 3-2 home loss Oct. 23, and that came against New York’s backup goaltender Chad Johnson, who had 30 saves.
Halak is likely to get the call this time, and he’s won four straight meetings with the Bruins to improve to 8-3-0 with a 1.86 goals-against average lifetime against them.
He’s also 14-1-0 with a 1.96 GAA in his last 15 home games, winning seven straight with a 2.25 mark.
John Tavares has seven points in four games, scoring a goal in each of the last three. The captain, who joined Halak at the All-Star game, has 18 points in 19 career meetings with Boston, collecting six in the last four.
Kyle Okposo, who had 11 points in his last five games versus the Bruins, will miss a second straight game as he’s out at least six weeks with an upper-body injury.
Mikhail Grabovski softened that blow with a goal Tuesday after missing five games with a lower-body injury. The center has eight goals in his past 14 regular-season games against the Bruins.
It’ll likely be up to Tuukka Rask to quiet the Islanders, who are second in the NHL with 3.17 goals per game.
The reigning Vezina Trophy winner has a 1.46 GAA while going 5-1-2 in his last eight starts. He’s won both games at Nassau Coliseum while stopping 70 of 74 shots, but had 26 saves in a 5-3 loss in his most recent meeting with the Islanders on Dec. 31, 2013.
Patrice Bergeron has nine points in eight games on Long Island, getting two in the last visit. The All-Star center didn’t get a point and was a minus-2 against New York in October.