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ISLANDERS (20-16-4) at BRUINS (26-9-4)
TV: MSG PLUS, NESN+
Last 10: New York 7-2-1; Boston 6-3-1
Season Series: This is the third of three meetings. The Boston Bruins are 2-0-0 against the New York Islanders this season, outscoring them 8-3 along the way.
Big Story: The Isles enter Thursday’s action boasting a 7-1-1 record in their past nine games and could be on the verge of clinching an invitation to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since the 2006-07 season. New York currently resides in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, but is tied with both the Ottawa Senators and New York Rangers at 44 points each.
Boston, meanwhile, is in a fierce battle with the Montreal Canadiens for the Northeast Division crown. The Bruins regained the division lead with Wednesday’s 5-4 victory against the New Jersey Devils, as they jumped one point ahead of the idle Habs.
Islanders: After years of rebuilding, it appears general manager Garth Snow’s plan is beginning to come to fruition. After a disastrous start to the season on home ice, the Islanders have been much better of late at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, where they earned back-to-back victories against the Tampa Bay Lightning and Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday and Tuesday, respectively, inching a bit closer towards a playoff spot. New York has won four straight at home to improve to 9-11-2 at the Coliseum. The Islanders are 11-5-2 on the road and are four games over .500 overall for the first time since Feb. 28, 2008.
"I think we've built up a foundation here," defenseman Matt Carkner told Newsday. "You do the right things over and over, you're going to build confidence. Consistency was our biggest problem before, and now we have something to go back to when we're struggling, or when we need to keep a lead."
Bruins: They’re already missing Patrice Bergeron. Will Boston now have to move forward without the services of Brad Marchand, too?
Marchand was injured during Wednesday’s win at New Jersey, when he appeared to be on the receiving end of an elbow to the head from Devils defenseman Anton Volchenkov during the second period. Bruins coach Claude Julien did not have an update on Marchand’s condition after the game, but it’s highly unlikely he’ll be in the lineup against the Islanders.
"After the second period, our trainer said he wasn't going to be back," Julien said of Marchand. "Whether that's being cautious or not, I don't know. I'll let our doctors give me the verdict before I say anything, but I haven't talked to anybody about him since the game finished."
Who's hot: Isles center John Tavares has three goals and three assists over the past five games, while winger Josh Bailey is 2-3-5 over the same span. Evgeni Nabokov has allowed two or fewer goals in five straight starts, lowering his goals-against average to 2.59. … Jaromir Jagr (four assists) and Rich Peverley (one goal, three assists) have each tallied four points over the past two contests.
Injury report: New York will be missing defenseman Brian Strait (ankle) and Joe Finley (undisclosed), who are both on injured reserve. … The Bruins are expected to be without Marchand, Bergeron (head), and defenseman Adam McQuaid (shoulder).