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Islanders visit Bruins to start stretch against playoff teams

John Tavares, center, celebrates with Islanders teammates after

John Tavares, center, celebrates with Islanders teammates after scoring his 24th goal in the first period against Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday, March 8, 2016 at Barclays Center. Credit: Jim McIsaac

BOSTON — The Islanders’ long and winding road brings them here Saturday afternoon, the ninth pit stop in a stretch of 12 games out of 14 away from Bar c lays Center.

The Islanders and Bruins haven’t faced off since early November, when the Islanders were fumbling through a schedule heavy with games against the Bruins and Canadiens, to whom the Isles lost five times in a 30-day stretch.

The Islanders and the Bruins have been on the upswing since then. The Bruins entered Friday night’s games in first place in the Atlantic Division and are 31-17-7 in their last 55 games, beginning with a 2-1 win over the Islanders in Brooklyn on Nov. 8. The Isles are 30-15-5 since that loss and have a chance to pull even with the Rangers for second in the Metropolitan Division on Saturday.

“We’ve been playing some good hockey but we haven’t made up much ground,” coach Jack Capuano said. “It’s tight this time of year.”

The Islanders welcomed Calvin de Haan (groin) back to practice, though Capuano said the defenseman was just getting back into shape after missing eight of the past 10 games.

Mikhail Grabovski (upper body) practiced again but will miss his 10th straight game. And Marek Zidlicky (upper body) did not practice and will miss a third straight game.

Capuano did some shuffling of his forward lines at practice, moving Brock Nelson back to center between Anders Lee and Shane Prince and putting Ryan Strome on the right side with Nikolay Kulemin and Frans Nielsen. Josh Bailey, John Tavares and Kyle Okposo remained the top line.

Saturday’s game kicks off a stretch of five straight against teams in playoff position, with a brief stop at home to face the Panthers on Monday followed by trips to Pittsburgh, Nashville and Dallas. The Islanders have not just weathered their road haul, they’ve prospered, going 7-1-1 in their last nine.

“We’ve been finding ways to win,” Tavares said. “We know it takes 82 games to get to the playoffs and there’s no nights off at this time of year.”

New York Sports