April 6, 2011

B's look to get back on track with win over Islanders

by Jesse Connolly

Bruins winger Michael Ryder will look to extend his point streak to three games on Wednesday against the Islanders. (Getty)

BOSTON -- With little left to fight for in the regular season, all that's left for the Bruins to do now is sharpen up in preparation for the postseason.

Trailing the second-seeded Flyers by four points with a game in hand, there's still a slim chance the Black and Gold could jump up to the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference, but -- for the most part -- their attention lies elsewhere.

"The focus should be more on us getting our game where it needs to be heading into the postseason," winger Shawn Thornton said. "The standings and all that stuff is out the window as far as I'm concerned. It's more about focusing on what we have to do here to be successful for the next couple of months."

Their first of three remaining tune-ups will come tonight at TD Garden, as the Bruins will play host to the visiting Islanders.

While much of the talk revolving around their last tilt -- one in which they allowed five unanswered goals in a 5-3 loss to the Rangers -- was about straying from the game-plan, Thornton and the Bruins know the onus is on the players to learn from those kinds of lessons.

"I think we should be motivated ourselves, but it's more about paying attention to detail and not letting things slip at this time of year," he said. "We kind of got away from our game-plan a little bit in the last game. We'll move on and get ready for the next one."

The Islanders could prove to be a dangerous opponent for Boston, as their young core, striving to prove themselves at the NHL level, has played markedly better since the start of the calendar year.

"I've never been on a team that's out of it this early, but I'm assuming those guys over there are trying to make a name for themselves and prove they're capable of staying in this league," Thornton said of the Isles. "I'm sure there's not as much pressure on them either, so it's never an easy game when you're playing teams like that."

After winning their first two tilts against the Islanders, the Bruins dropped the last matchup between the two clubs at Nassau Coliseum, one in which they surrendered an early 2-0 lead in an eventual 4-2 loss -- a game strikingly similar to Monday's meltdown at Madison Square Garden.

So might a little revenge be in the cards?

"I don't remember the last game we played against them, to tell you the truth," Thornton said. "It was a while ago. I think about the game until around midnight afterward and then try to move on to the next one. That's kind of been my focus my whole life."

Regardless, the Bruins recognize how important getting on a roll is over these last few days before the so-called second season gets underway.

"You don't want to go in on a rough note and kind of skid," said Michael Ryder. "You want to make sure you go in on a high note and have some confidence. We just have to get off to a good start and make sure we do that every game."

For Boston, a team that seems to be plagued just a tad bit too often by an inability to play a complete game, bringing the same effort from the drop of the puck until the final horn will be paramount in the postseason.

"I think it's just keeping us aware of what we need to do to be successful," said Ryder. "When we play a full 60 minutes, we're a pretty good team. When we get away from that, it comes back to haunt us. In order for us to go far in the playoffs, we can't do that."

The Bruins and their oft-disappointed fans certainly know that's a stone-cold fact.