UNIONDALE, N.Y. — The last time the Bruins walked into the Nassau Coliseum — back on Nov. 2 — it did not go well for them in a 3-1 loss. Nor did it go well on New Year’s Eve, when the Islanders ended the Bruins’ 2013 on a bad note, beating them at the Garden, 5-3. Now the Bruins have just one game left against the team with the third-lowest point total in the Eastern Conference, on Monday night, and they’d like to turn their play around against a team that has cost them 4 points.
“This is a team that’s a pretty good hockey club,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “They’re young and every once in a while they might get some ebbs and flows in their game, but they’re a pretty good team. I think they’re really earning the respect of a lot of teams around this league, including us.”
But a lot of that was also the Bruins, who have had a lack of energy and focus in facing the Islanders, especially in the first game. It was a game that left Julien upset at his team, a game that stood — at least until that 6-1 debacle in Detroit Nov. 27 — as the Bruins’ worst of the season.
“I don’t know what you want to call it, but I call it not good enough,” Julien said after that loss. “There’s no way in the world you should come in here and play the way you play. We’re not competing hard enough. We’re just not good enough right now.
“You see the difference in the team that beat you tonight — the energy and the effort that was put in compared to us. Sometimes you think you’re working hard, but you’re not.”
Julien said the common thread to the two losses was that the Bruins just simply didn’t play well. Some of it was the Islanders, sure. But more of it was the play of his team.
The Bruins have a chance to turn that around Monday night.
Said wing Milan Lucic, “We definitely want to end off the season series on a good note against them, so it’s an important game for us.
“They’re obviously a different team than they were the last bunch of years. They’re fighting to get themselves back into a position where they can get themselves a playoff spot. Obviously they still have a long ways to go with the hole that they’ve dug themselves in. But still, they’re fighting their way back.”
The Islanders are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games. But the Bruins are in a much different place now than they were when they faced the Islanders either of the last two times, having lost in regulation in just one of their last six games.
They seem to be rounding into form with their new identity (minus Dennis Seidenberg), having gotten those results against some of the best teams in hockey in the Sharks, Blackhawks, and Kings.
“It just goes to show you sometimes a lot of it’s mind-set, too,” Julien said. “We kind of talked about these last 10 games and how we wanted to finish [before the Olympic break] and it was important to do some of these things that we hadn’t been doing.’’
Spooner battles illness
When Ryan Spooner ran into Jared Knight recently, the Providence forward was surprised. His reaction?
As Spooner said, Knight’s response was, “ ‘Oh my God, what happened to you?’ I’m like, ‘What do you mean?’ He goes, ‘You look so skinny.’ ”
Spooner has been battling illness for about a week and a half, he said, shaving 10 pounds off a frame that he likes to keep around 182 to 184 pounds during the season, though last year he got up to 195 or so.
Spooner missed Saturday’s game against the Flyers in Philadelphia because of the illness. He was replaced at center by Carl Soderberg and in the lineup by Jordan Caron. He said he’s not sure what the illness is.
“I’m fine now,” Spooner said Sunday. “I just took yesterday off because I was throwing up in the morning. I couldn’t eat, didn’t feel good. I’ve lost weight, so I’ve got to try to put that back on.”
Day off for Chara
Zdeno Chara headed out of Nassau Coliseum before the team stepped on the ice. The defenseman was given a maintenance day by Julien. “He’s a big man, needs some time off in our minds,” Julien said. “Not in his mind, but in our minds. So every once in a while we force him to stay off.” Asked if Chara fights that, Julien said, “He’s getting used to it. He hasn’t won a fight yet. When I tell him to stay off, he’s getting the message now.” . . . Julien said a decision still had not been made about Chris Kelly’s readiness to return to game action Monday night. The forward has missed 20 games with a fractured fibula . . . The Bruins were delayed getting on the ice by a youth hockey game featuring the Long Island Gulls, the team for whom Gregory Campbell played while his father, Colin, was coaching in New York. The Bruins were ready to head onto the ice when they were alerted that the youth game still had four minutes to go.
Amalie Benjamin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.