RECORDS: Islanders, 2-1-0; Bruins, 2-0-1
THEME: CAN THE ISLANDERS BUILD OFF THEIR COMEBACK, TEAM-EFFORT WIN IN TORONTO AND UPSET THE BRUINS AT HOME?
PLUS: Michael Grabner has been the scoring, speed merchant The Maven hoped he would be. Grabs appears capable of making a play nearly every time he touches the puck. Frans Nielsen has been doing everything right. Against Toronto he produced a pivotal third period shot block. John Tavares has four assists in his first three games. He's drawing so much attention that his linemates often are open. Matt Moulson got off the schneid with a pair of goals in his home town and could be on his way to another pot of goals season. Brad Boyes, who had been playing well all along, scored his first goal as an Islander and added two assists. New York's penalty-killers are batting a thousand and added a shorthander against the Leafs.
MINUS: New defenseman Joe Finley is getting beaten too easily on the outside. If the hulking rearguard hopes to stay with the varsity, he'll have to improve. Isles still are having trouble getting out of their own zone. Better teams will make them pay for this.
EVEN: Evgeni Nabokov, who's been a game-saver so far, had a rough start in Toronto -- three goals on the first eleven shots -- but rebounded to stop 31 of the next 32 drives. As usual, Nabby gave his club a chance to win. Mark Streit's game is getting closer to All-Star status despite some bad turnovers in his zone. Enforcer-defenseman Matt Carkner came to Tavares' defense after Dion Phaneuf smashed Johnny T into the boards from behind.
CHALLENGE: Coach Jack Capuano must decide whether to rest Nabokov and start Rick DiPietro in his first game of the season. All signs indicate that Nabby could use a rest and -- after a positive training camp -- DP appears ready for the start. The Big, Bad Bruins always are a major test at home. How the Isles -- as a team -- react to the back-to-back games will offer a hint on how the remaining three road games will evolve.
FAN COMMENT: From Michael Leboff, Rockville Centre, N.Y. "Coming back from a one-three deficit on the road is a promising sign for a young, growing team. I'm proud of the effort they've given in the past two wins."
THREE KEYS TO BEATING BOSTON:
1. Limit mistakes in the Isles defensive zone.
2. Led by Matt Carkner, the visitors must be physical and stand up to the likes of toughies such as Milan Lucic.
3. Play a smart, solid first period, make good on chances and take the crowd out of the game.
FOUR MATCH-UPS TO WATCH:
1. Islanders penalty-killers vs. Bruins PKs. Neither team has given up a power play goal so far.
2. Dougie Hamilton-Zdeno Chara vs. Moulson-Tavares-Okposo: Rookie Hamilton has become a Boston fan fave while Big Z is one of the best Dmen in the league. Isles top line will be hard-pressed to beat them.
3. Patrice Bergeron vs. Frans Nielsen: Two of the smartest checking forwards in the game square off and that'll be fun to watch.
4. Isles Homecomers vs. Boston crowd: Rick DiPietro, Keith Aucoin and Brian Strait are all Boston natives. This is a good time to show off with a win!