The Buffalo Sabres host the Boston Bruins tonight at the HSBC Arena, for the third of six times this season. The previous two contests were also in Buffalo, as the Bruins went 2-0-0 against the Sabres, and hold a 6-3 scoring edge. Tonight will mark the 275th meeting between the two Northeast Division teams in their lifetime series, with the Bruins holding a 112-101-29-5 record over the Sabres, but Buffalo edging out Boston in the scoring department, 806-802.
The Bruins are also playing in their 12th set of 17 back-to-back games tonight, and tomorrow against LA Kings. Boston is 5-4-2 in games ones, and 5-5-1 in game twos.
Away Team: Boston Bruins (23-20-8, 54 points, 4th Northeast Division, 11th Eastern Conference, 10-9-5 away, 2-7-1 last 10 games)
- 30th/last in the NHL goals-for with 2.37 – eight goals in their last five
- 6th in the league with 2.45 goals-against average – 19 against in their last five
- 17.4% on the power play for 20th overall – 1-for-16 in their last eight games
- 2nd in the NHL with a 87.7% success rate on the penalty kill – successfully killed 30 of their last 34 times short
The Bruins lost their fifth straight home loss, last Saturday against the Ottawa Senators, for first time since Feb. 12 – Mar. 6, 2000 – which ties it for the second-longest such streak in club history. Entering tonight’s contest, the B’s hold a 17-13-6 record against Eastern Conference teams, and are 8-4-1 against Northeast Division rivals. Boston has nine games remaining in the next 16 calendar days – four against Division opponents and seven total against teams in the East – twice each against Buffalo and Montreal.
Byron Bitz [undisclosed], and Marc Savard [knee] are expected to be in the lineup tonight. Steve Begin [lower-body injury] skated once again yesterday in full participation, but remains questionable tonight. Marco Sturm [leg], who continues to skate, will make the trip to Buffalo to be with the team, but will not play. Claude Julien said of Andrew Ference [groin] “I think he’s feeling better. Hopefully if everything goes well, maybe by next week he can hop in with us and start working his way back.” I bet he doesn’t play again until March.
Home team: Buffalo Sabres (31-14-7, 69 points, 1st Northeast Division, 3rd Eastern Conference, 15-10-1 at home, 6-4-0 last 10 games)
- 11th in the NHL in goals-for per game – 2.77
- 4th in the league with 2.33 goals-against average
- 18.3% on the power play for 15th overall
- 3rd overall in the NHL with a 87.1% success rate on the penalty kill
The Sabres are anchored by Vezina Trophy front runner and Team USA net-minder, Ryan Miller. The 29-year-old holds an astounding 28-11-5, with a league-high .934 save-percentage, an NHL second-best 2.06 goals-against average, and a third-most five shutouts.
“”They’re playing with lots of confidence-they’ve got great goaltending.” Bruins head coach Claude Julien said of the Division leaders after yesterday’s practice. ” They gave up 40 shots last night [Wednesday] but only gave up a goal. We’re already challenged a little bit in the goal-scoring department so we’re going to work that much harder to get it past this guy.”
Tim Connolly: 2-4-6, minus-3, 16 shots on goal in his last five.
Jason Pomminville: 1-4-5, E, 15 shots on net – last five.
Adam Mair: two-game goal streak. 2-0-2, plus-2, six shots in that span.
Thomas Vanek: 2-1-3, minus-1, 13 shots in his last five games.
Hecht – Connolly – Pomminville
Vanek – Roy- Mair
Stafford – Gaustad – Kaleta
Ellis – Kennedy – Grier
Tallinder – Myers
Butler – Rivet
Paetsch – Sekera