Though the Boston Bruins have done their best work on the road this season, their first visit to Barclays Center may be their toughest challenge yet.
The New York Islanders return to their new home carrying a four-game winning streak into Friday night’s clash between two of the NHL’s highest-scoring teams.
They’ve scored 18 goals and averaged 33.2 shots during the run while getting a lift from Jaroslav Halak’s return from an upper-body injury.
Halak made 37 saves in his second start back to lead New York (4-1-1) to a 4-0 victory at Columbus Tuesday, following up the club’s first three wins at Barclays Center. The veteran goaltender now faces a Bruins team that’s averaging 3.67 goals per game and has won both of its road tests during an overall uneven start.
Boston (2-3-1) remains winless at home after squandering a two-goal lead in the third period of Wednesday’s 5-4 overtime loss to Philadelphia, the latest tough outing for the slumping Tuukka Rask. The 2014 Vezina Trophy winner owns a 4.40 goals-against average and an .854 save percentage while allowing at least three goals in each of his five starts.
”I wouldn’t call it a struggle,” Rask said. ”But, then again, you let in five, four goals every game … can’t be pretty happy about that.”
The Bruins have overcome some of their defensive lapses with a power play that’s converting at a league-best 38.1 percent. All of Patrice Bergeron’s four goals have come on the man advantage, and he’s totaled five points over the last two games.
David Krejci is on a hot stretch as well, tallying nine of his team-best 11 points in the last four after notching two assists Wednesday.
"We’re scoring a lot of goals," defenseman Torey Krug told the Bruins’ official website. "But it’s our defensive foundation that we’re trying to get back to, and being stingy and not giving so many scoring chances away. If we clean those areas up, we’ll have some good hockey games."
The Islanders have been better on the back end of late, in part due to Halak’s return. They haven’t allowed a power-play goal in three straight and killed off all six chances against Columbus.
"Our goaltender is our best penalty killer, but our guys have been structured and have been doing the right things at the right times," coach Jack Capuano told the team’s official website. "Faceoffs have been key for us too."
New York also is getting strong offensive contributions during its four-game surge. Captain John Tavares has three goals and five assists, Kyle Okposo has six points and Anders Lee, Brock Nelson and Nikolay Kulemin each have two goals over the streak.
Tavares recorded two goals and two assists in the Islanders’ three 2014-15 meetings with Boston, which enjoyed great success during the final few years of Nassau Coliseum. The Bruins have won five of six on the road in the series and are 10-2-1 in their last 13 against New York as the visitor.
Rask is 8-3-0 with a 2.34 GAA in 12 starts against the Islanders and won both his matchups last season. Halak is 8-4-0 with a 2.04 GAA in 12 starts against Boston but permitted four goals in 5-2 home loss on Jan. 29.