WILMINGTON, Mass. — The Bruins won back-to-back games for the first time this season with a 5-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night, and their schedule doesn’t get any easier with the New York Islanders visiting TD Garden on Thursday night.
The Islanders have been one of the surprise teams over the first two weeks of the season.
The additions of defensemen Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy, as well as the healthy return of captain John Tavares, have played a significant role in the Isles winning four of their first six games, highlighted by a 6-3 victory over the rival New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Oct. 14.
New York ranks second in goals scored (3.50/game) and greatly improved its goaltending with the offseason signings of Jaroslav Halak and former Bruins backup Chad Johnson.
B’s head coach Claude Julien knows that the Islanders will be a challenge for his team.
“You don’t get that many top picks year after year and not become a good team if you handle it well,” Julien said. “I think we started seeing a lot of it last year, the young guys were starting to gain more experience and becoming, I guess, more difference-makers. To give examples, (John) Tavares, (Kyle) Okposo, those guys are really turning a corner, and they’ve had some acquisitions, as we all know, that have helped them solidify their team a little bit. They’re a good skating team, they’re highly skilled, and they’ve given us a fair share of difficulty in the last year or so.”
Nearly all of the talk surrounding Bruins-Islanders is focused on Boychuk’s return. The veteran defenseman, who quickly became a fan favorite, spent five-plus seasons in black and gold before being traded to New York a few days before the 2014-15 campaign.
We don’t yet know if Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask will start Thursday night, but the reigning Vezina Trophy winner was asked about the possibility of facing Boychuk for the first time.
“I wish all the best for him, I just hope he doesn’t score, that’s all,” Rask said. “I’d never hear the end of it. He actually texted me after he was traded and said whenever we play I should give him a goal, but I hope he doesn’t score.”
“If the game’s 9-1 or something for us, then accidents happen,” Rask said jokingly when asked if he’d help out Boychuk, who’s in the midst of a contract year.
Boychuk has tallied two goals, four assists with 16 shots in six games with the Islanders.
— Lines and pairings from Wednesday’s practice:
Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Seth Griffith
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Reilly Smith
Chris Kelly-Carl Soderberg-Loui Eriksson
Daniel Paille-Gregory Campbell-Simon Gagne/Matt Fraser
Zdeno Chara-Dougie Hamilton
Dennis Seidenberg-Torey Krug
Matt Bartkowski-Adam McQuaid
Tuukka Rask, Niklas Svedberg
— The Bruins’ second line of Patrice Bergeron, Reilly Smith and Brad Marchand had a difficult time at even strength against the Sharks. They were out shot, didn’t tally a point during 5-on-5 play and had a few unusual defensive breakdowns.
“It was a tough night for that line, and you’re not used to seeing that line go through those kinds of things, but everyone else picked it up,” Julien said.
— Torey Krug played well in a top-four role alongside Dennis Seidenberg on Tuesday night. He scored a power-play goal and picked up two assists. Unsurprisingly, the 23-year-old defenseman has been a quality puck-possession player with a team-leading 61.9 corsi-for percentage during 5-on-5 play.
— Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg was asked after Wednesday’s practice if there are any “untouchable” players who would never be traded in today’s NHL.
“I think so, there’s franchise players that some teams have,” Seidenberg said. “I would say (Penguins captain Sidney) Crosby is pretty much untradeable. but you never know, (Wayne) Gretzky got traded (once). You can’t really say untradeable.”
— Seidenberg also was asked about what it will feel like to play against Boychuk.
“It will be awkward,” Seidenberg said. “I had been playing with him a while. It will definitely be different.”
— Some Islanders news to remember for Thursday night:
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