Islanders close out season against Bruins - The Hockey News on Sports Illustrated

Islanders close out season against Bruins

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By Jon Palmieri

Stats Editor

Boston (52-19-10) at NY Islanders (26-46-9), 5:00 p.m. EDT

UNIONDALE, New York (AP) -- The Boston Bruins may have fallen

short in their bid for the Presidents' Trophy, but the top seed

in the Eastern Conference and the franchise's highest point

total in 37 years should help ease that disappointment.

In their final tune-up before postseason play, the Bruins look

to avoid back-to-back losses Sunday afternoon when they visit

the league-worst New York Islanders.

Boston (52-19-10) headed into its final two regular-season games

with a shot at its first Presidents' Trophy since 1989-90, but

Buffalo scored four first-period goals en route to a 6-1 home

victory Saturday, ending any chance the Bruins had at finishing

with the league's best record.

"We didn't have our heads into it," coach Claude Julien said.

"It would've been nice, but we're not going to cry over spilled

milk."

More important than the results in Boston's final two games is

keeping its players healthy and in top condition with the

playoffs just days away. Julien rested several regulars

Saturday, including captain Zdeno Chara and starting goalie Tim

Thomas. Phil Kessel, who leads the team with 33 goals, also

didn't play because of the flu.

Julien also didn't rule out resting more players on Sunday with

nothing at stake.

Thomas could be back in net Sunday looking to extend a personal

five-game win streak during which he has a 1.78 goals-against

average. He has won four straight starts against the Islanders

(26-46-9), allowing one goal in each game.

The rest of the Bruins have also fared very well versus New York

lately, winning all three meetings this season and limiting the

Islanders to six total goals during five consecutive wins in the

series.

With 114 points, Boston already has its highest total since the

1971-72 team had 119. That season resulted in the Bruins' most

recent Stanley Cup.

The Bruins will face arch-rival Montreal in the first round of

the playoffs for the second straight season. Boston has lost to

the Canadiens in the opening round in three straight postseason

meetings.

This season is mercifully coming to a close for the Islanders,

who will finish with the league's worst record for the first

time since 2000-01.

Since a 6-2-1 run from Feb. 28-March 15, New York has struggled

to a 2-8-1 mark in its last 11 games. Included in that stretch

was a 9-0 loss at Carolina on Tuesday and 6-1 defeat in

Pittsburgh two days later.

The Islanders were more competitive in Saturday's 3-2 home loss

to Philadelphia but still lost their third straight.

A weak offense has been the biggest problem for the Islanders,

who could fail to have a 20-goal scorer for the first time in

franchise history. Rookie Kyle Okposo leads the team with 18

goals.

New York also needs one goal in its final game to reach 200 for

the season.

Assured of picking either first or second in the June draft, the

Islanders are expected to land either star Canadian forward John

Tavares or 6-foot-5 Swedish defenseman Victor Hedman.

"There's a lot of talk about these two players," forward Sean

Bergenheim said. "They'll bring a lot to this team."

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