With a playoff berth secured, the Boston Bruins will try to move closer to a second straight Northeast Division title when they visit the New York Islanders today at Nassau Coliseum.
The Bruins fell short of clinching a playoff berth in their last game on Thursday, but the Pittsburgh Penguins finished the job for them the following night in Buffalo. Pittsburgh's 5-3 victory over the Sabres ensured Boston would get a chance to defend its Stanley Cup title, which came after defeating the Vancouver Canucks in seven games last spring.
Boston, which sits in the second spot in the Eastern Conference and tops in the Northeast Division, is in the playoffs for the fifth straight season. The Bruins are six points ahead of Ottawa for the division crown and both teams have five games remaining in the regular season. The Senators play this afternoon in Philadelphia.
The Bruins had a chance to clinch a postseason berth with a win earlier this week, but they lost a shootout decision to Washington on Thursday. Brooks Laich's goal in the fourth round of the shootout lifted the visiting Capitals to the 3-2 victory at TD Garden and the point earned by Boston wasn't enough to get the B's into the postseason.
David Krejci and Andrew Ference tallied goals in regulation for Boston, which had its three-game win streak snapped.
"You have to give credit where credit is due. They are fighting for the playoffs and played a really strong defensive game," said Ference. "Their (offensive) firepower gets a lot of credit, but they play a good system."
Tim Thomas made 21 saves for the Bruins through regulation and overtime, but he lost in the shootout for the first time this season. The two-time Vezina Trophy winner is 6-1 in shootouts this year.
Boston is kicking off a two-game tour of the New York area today and will visit the Rangers tomorrow night at Madison Square Garden. The Bruins are 22-15-1 as the road club this season.
On the injury front for the Bruins, defenseman Dennis Seidenberg could play today after missing Thursday's test with an infection in his left leg. However, fellow blueliner Adam McQuaid will not make the trip to Long Island after getting drilled face-first into the boards on Thursday by Washington's Jason Chimera.
The Islanders will miss the playoffs for a fifth straight year, but the club is still playing hard and has won three straight and five of its last six contests.
New York earned a surprising home-and-home sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins this week, posting a pair of 5-3 victories over the playoff-bound Pens. The Isles beat Pittsburgh in the road portion on Tuesday, earning their first victory in the Steel City since 2007.
Kyle Okposo and Josh Bailey scored two goals apiece in Thursday's home win over the Penguins. Bailey ended with five points and Al Montoya made 26 saves for the win.
Islanders coach Jack Capuano remained level-headed after another win against a team fighting for its playoff position.
"We just try to prepare for every game like we've done all season," Capuano said. "It's business."
The Isles are playing the middle test of a three-game homestand that is set to close tomorrow against Ottawa. They are 16-16-6 as the host this season.
Boston was 2-0 against the Isles this year before dropping a 3-2 regulation decision against a visiting New York club in the third game of the season series on March 3. The Bruins have won six of eight overall in the series and Boston has claimed three of its last four tests at the Coliseum.