(SportsNetwork.com) - The Boston Bruins hope to give their playoff hopes a big second-half push on Thursday night as they visit the Metropolitan Division- leading New York Islanders.
The Bruins are playing for the first time since last Wednesday's 3-2 shootout loss to the Colorado Avalanche, just their second loss in eight games. Boston went 6-1-3 in its final 10 games before the All-Star break to grab a seven- point advantage for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Rust may be a factor tonight as the Bruins also were unable to practice on Tuesday due to a snowstorm in the area before finally hitting the ice on Wednesday.
"Obviously, the break was nice," forward David Krejci told Boston's website on Wednesday. "I thought we were finding our game just before the break, so unfortunately, we didn't have practice (Tuesday), but I thought we did a pretty good job today. So yeah, we've got to start where we left off, and now we have to get back in a playoff position and try to climb up the standings."
Boston appeared headed towards two points a week ago, but Colorado tied the game with 1:45 left in regulation and then got the lone goal of the shootout from Nathan MacKinnon.
MacKinnon buried a wrister past Tuukka Rask -- who made 34 saves through overtime -- to begin the shootout, while Reilly Smith, David Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron all came up empty on their chances.
Torey Krug and Brad Marchand scored for the Bruins.
"We played a good 58 minutes of hockey tonight," said Krug. "Killed a couple of penalties, and then we just let them back in."
Bergeron returns to the Bruins off an excellent showing in Sunday's All-Star Game as he scored a goal and assisted on four others. Coincidentally, all four helpers came on goals scored by Islanders forward John Tavares.
Tavares picked up right where he left off on Tuesday as he scored in the Islanders' 4-1 win over the New York Rangers. It marked the third time in as many meetings this season that the Isles have bested the rival Blueshirts, doing so by a combined 13-4 margin.
Jaroslav Halak nearly picked up another shutout over the Rangers, but yielded a goal with 8.1 seconds to play. He ended up with 40 saves two weeks after shutting out the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
"Everybody did a great job tonight," Halak said, "It's too bad they scored at the end, but it's two points at home."
The Isles lead the Pittsburgh Penguins by three points for first place in the Metro.
Mikhail Grabovski returned from a five-game absence caused by a lower-body injury to score, while Matt Martin and Ryan Strome also scored. Johnny Boychuk notched two assists in the victory.
Tavares, meanwhile, has three goals and seven points over his last four games and helped the Islanders surge to a win despite Kyle Okposo missing his first game with an upper-body injury that is expected to sideline him for 6-to-8 weeks.
Okposo is second on the Isles with 44 points, two fewer than Tavares.
The Islanders won the first of three meetings this season with the Bruins, taking a 3-2 decision at Boston on Oct. 23. Backup Chad Johnson made 30 saves and Boychuk returned to Beantown for the first time since getting traded by the Bruins to the Isles on Oct. 4.
Halak figures to start tonight and is 8-3-0 versus Boston with a 1.86 goals against average, .942 save percentage and two shutouts in 11 games.
Though the Isles have won four of the past five meetings overall, the Bruins have taken nine of their last 12 trips to Long Island and got 35 saves from backup Niklas Svedberg in the earlier meeting.
However, that loss is best remembered for defenseman Zdeno Chara exiting early with a knee injury that sidelined him for 19 games.
Rask, meanwhile, is 6-3-0 versus the Islanders with a 2.52 GAA and .920 save percentage.