There still may be seven games left after tonight, but the way this week has gone it might as well be looked at as a do or die situation for the Boston Bruins.
Now losers of four straight, the Black and Gold need to find their mojo again that they once had at the start of the Bruce Cassidy era – and quickly. Their opponent tonight, the Islanders, have beaten the Black and Gold in both of their previous meetings this season at TD Garden.
In another critical game, the Bruins will be without Tuukka Rask, who is day to day with a lower-body injury. Anton Khudobin will make the start between the pipes for the first time since the B’s last victory in Calgary over a week ago, while Zane McIntyre was recalled from Providence to join the team in Brooklyn.
Fresh off their win over the Penguins one night ago, the Islanders now hold the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference thanks to their game in hand on the Bruins.
Gametime: 7:00 pm
TV/Radio: NESN/98.5 The Sports Hub
Records: Bruins 38-30-6 (82 points), Islanders 35-27-12 (82 points)
Location Barclays Center
Bruins projected lines
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-David Backes
Drew Stafford-David Krejci-David Pastrnak
Frank Vatrano-Ryan Spooner-Jimmy Hayes
Riley Nash-Dominic Moore-Noel Acciari
Zdeno Chara-Brandon Carlo
Torey Krug-Adam McQuaid
Kevan Miller-Colin Miller
Islanders projected lines
Andrew Ladd-John Tavares-Josh Bailey
Anders Lee-Anthony Beauvillier-Josh Ho-Sang
Brock Nelson-Alan Quine-Jason Chimaera
Nikolay Kulemin-Casey Cizikas-Cal Clutterbuck
Nick Leddy-Adam Pelech
Calvin de Hann-Travis Hamonic
Thomas Hickey-Scott Mayfield
– The dilemma with Rask continues. Yes, he hasn’t been as good of late, but without him in October, November and December during the team’s goal-scoring troubles, the Bruins may not even be in the discussion of a playoff spot. Luckily for Rask and company, Khudobin has picked up his game of late having won each of his last four starts. A fifth win for Khudobin could give Cassidy some flexibility heading into next week while Rask heals from his lower-body injury.
– Including their recent 0-4 stretch, the Bruins are 8-15-5 in the last three years after the ides of March. Unlike the last two years with the Senators and Flyers, the other teams on the playoff bubble aside from the recently resurgent Carolina Hurricanes haven’t gone on a late season run. With the last two late regular season collapses fresh in fans minds, the Bruins need to show that desperation to avoid another disappointing finish. Otherwise, some drastic – and needed – changes will be talked about during another off-season of uncertainty on Causeway Street.