The New York Islanders limp into the Garden with the league's worst record at 5-15-5. They've lost 10 straight on the road and have just one win in their last 18 games overall. Still, the Bruins vow they won't take anything for granted.
"Anybody who's followed them is going to tell you they've been in every game," said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "It's not like people are walking all over them. They've lost some close games. Last game against Philly, they were up in that game and outshot them 30-27 I think, so it's not like they're lopsided losses. They're in every game and we need to respect that."
The Islanders have stayed competitive for the most part, as they've only lost by more than two goals in two of their last 12 games. Still, close hasn't been good enough as New York is just 1-8-3 in that span.
"I think it's a team that's got some good young talent," said Julien. "They're obviously struggling to win some games right now, but it's certainly not from [a lack of] battling, not from [a lack of] competing. I know that we've had our hands full with that team in the past and I don't think that's about to change."
Boston Bruins (15-8-3, 33 points) vs. New York Islanders (5-15-5, 15 points)
Dec. 9, 7 p.m. (NESN)
TD Garden, Boston, Mass.
This is the first of four meetings this season between the Bruins and Islanders. The Bruins went 2-1-1 against New York last year, with three of the games decided by one goal, including a shootout win for the Bruins and an overtime win for the Islanders. The Bruins lead the all-time series 69-46-21-4 and are 38-18-11-2 at home against the Islanders.
Tim Thomas shows no sign of slowing down, as he is now 14-2-2 with a 1.49 GAA, .955 save percentage and five shutouts. He's 8-4-1 with a 2.00 GAA and a .941 save percentage against the Islanders.
Tuukka Rask is just 1-6-1 with a 2.59 GAA and a .926 save percentage this season, and he's 1-1-0 with a 2.89 GAA and an .897 save percentage against the Isles.
For the Islanders, Rick DiPietro is 3-4-4 this season but his 3.76 GAA and .874 save percentage both rank 41st out of 42 qualified leaders in the league. He is 6-5-3 with a 2.44 GAA and a .926 save percentage against the Bruins.
Dwayne Roloson is 2-11-2 but does have better stats with a 2.50 GAA and a .913 save percentage. He's also 5-2-2 with a 1.97 GAA and a .941 save percentage against the Bruins.
Even with former Providence Bruins coach Scott Gordon (Easton, Mass.) having been fired last month, the Islanders have plenty of local flavor and Bruins ties. New coach Jack Capuano (Cranston, R.I.) played two games for the Bruins in 1991-92, while assistant Dean Chynoweth played 94 games with Boston from 1995-98. Fellow assistants Scott Allen (New Bedford, Mass.) and Mike Dunham (University of Maine) also have local connections, as does general manager Garth Snow (Wrentham, Mass.) DiPietro (Winthrop, Mass./Boston University), Roloson (UMass-Lowell) and Mottau (Quincy, Mass./Boston College). Jurcina also played 91 games for the Bruins from 2005-07 and tough guy Trevor Gillies played five games for Providence in 2001-02, part of his tour around the region that saw him play for seven of the eight New England-based AHL clubs this decade.
Bruins captain Chara began his career with the Islanders, playing on Long Island from 1997-2001 after being taken 56th overall in 1996.
The Islanders have 19 fighting majors this season, while the Bruins have 24, but both clubs have had five fights in their last five games. Zenon Konopka, who led the NHL with 33 fighting majors last year in Tampa Bay, leads the Isles with eight so far, while Gillies and Matt Martin each have four. Shawn Thornton leads the Bruins with six, while Greg Campbell, Stuart and Adam McQuaid each have three and Milan Lucic has two. Last year's series produced just one fight, with Thornton taking on Tim Jackman, who is now with Calgary.
The Bruins bounced back from Saturday's shootout loss in Toronto with a dramatic win of their own, as they tied Buffalo late in the third then won it in overtime. That was just the second one-goal win of the year for the Bruins, who have enjoyed more of a cushion in almost all of their wins this year.
The Islanders should represent a chance for another comfortable victory, but only if the Bruins show up with a solid effort and don't overlook the struggling Isles.