Bruins-Islanders preview: Third time a charm?

Bruins-Islanders preview: Third time a charm?
January 27, 2014, 4:00 pm

UNIONDALE, NY -- The Islanders have consistently manhandled the Bruins this season, winning a pair of regular-season meetings with Boston.

They have outscored the B’s by an 8-4 margin in the two contests, but the circumstances behind the two Boston defeats were vastly different: Thomas Vanek and John Tavares dominated offensively in a 3-1 win at Nassau Coliseum that was Dougie Hamilton’s worst game of the season; and the Bruins stopped skating after building a two-goal lead in a 5-3 loss at TD Garden on Dec. 31.

In the second matchup, Tavares dominated, and the Bruins allowed four power-play goals in one of the first games following the knee injury to Dennis Seidenberg. Tavares has three goals and five points along with a plus-3 in two games versus the Bruins, and it will be up to Zdeno Chara to lock things down on the Isles star on Monday night.

The only thing in common in both games? The Bruins knew they hadn’t played close to their best, and perhaps overlooked the Isles slightly.

“I don’t think we played our best against [the Islanders], and I think that’s going to be the challenge [on Monday],” said Claude Julien. “We want to come out and play our game, and play the way that we’re capable of playing. Hopefully we’ll see a difference in the outcome.”
 
PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRED PUMPED: Loui Eriksson has just the one assist in seven games since returning to the lineup, and it’s been a gradual process for him to re-discover his game since he started playing at the tail end of the California road trip. But Eriksson had his best, most engaged game against the Flyers on Saturday afternoon, and the Swedish winger looks primed for a breakout sooner rather than later. Might it come against the Islanders?
 
DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: “This being the last meeting against the Islanders, we definitely want to the season series on a good note. It’s an important game for us. We just want to focus on carrying [our momentum] into tomorrow, and keeping up our strong play.” -- Milan Lucic, on the Bruins team that has gone 0-2 against the Islanders thus far this season.
 
KEY MATCHUP: The Islanders have their worst penalty kill unit in the NHL (75.9 percent success rate), and are going up against a Bruins power play outfit that scored three goals against the Flyers. Power play aces like Torey Krug, Jarome Iginla and Zdeno Chara could have a field day with this team. (They should have in the first couple of games that went by the boards.)
 
STAT TO WATCH: 500 – That's the point plateau Zdeno Chara will reach with his next goal or assist, with a golden chance to do it against the New York Islanders team that originally drafted him.
 
INJURIES: Chris Kelly has been ruled out for Monday night’s game against the Islanders, but is trending toward making his return Tuesday night against the Panthers in Boston. Ryan Spooner is healthy again after missing Saturday’s game with flu-like symptoms, and will be in the lineup against the Islanders. Boston defenseman Adam McQuaid (leg) hasn’t practiced since injuring himself in Sunday’s loss to Chicago, and didn’t make the two game road trip through Philly and Long Island.

Lubomir Visnovsky (concussion) and Evgeni Nabokov (lower body) are expected to return on Monday night, while defenseman Travis Hamonic (concussion) has not played since Jan. 12.
 
GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: Chad Johnson will make his third start in the last five games for the Bruins as Boston continues to give Tuukka Rask a needed breather prior to the Olympic break. Johnson has played well while winning both of his starts during that stretch, and is 2-0 with a 1.91 goals against average and a .932 save percentage during the month of January. He was especially good in the road win against Dallas that kicked off the recent stretch of solid performances.

Kevin Poulin is 11-15-1 with a 3.16 goals against average and a .894 save percentage this season, and has been one of the goaltenders that’s been a problem for the Islanders organization this season. Evgeni Nabokov will act as the back-up against the Bruins in a break for the Boston hockey club.