Game Day Preview: Bruins vs. Sabres
So much for an initial Winter Classic hangover.
Two days removed from their come-from-behind victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on New Year’s Day, the Boston Bruins returned home and cooled off a red-hot Calgary Flames squad. The Flames exposed the Bruins’ defensive issues, including another shorthanded goal allowed, but B’s stayed neck and neck with against Johnny Gaudreau and company en route to their 6-4 triumph.
Things don’t get any easier for the Black and Gold as they welcome the Buffalo Sabres for their fourth and final meeting of the regular season Saturday night. But they do have a couple of developments going for them. The Bruins get David Backes back in the lineup following his three-game suspension and they avoid Chelmsford’s own Jack Eichel (day-to-day upper body), who notched four points (two goals, two assists) the last time the two teams faced off on Causeway Street.
The Bruins and Sabres each have 50 points as they begin their second half of the 2018-19 season. Both trail the Maple Leafs — who have a game in hand — by four points. Saturday’s victors will sit alone in third place in the Atlantic Division.
Gametime: 7 p.m.
TV/Radio: NESN/98.5 The Sports Hub
Records: Bruins 23-14-4 (50 points), Sabres 22-13-6 (50 points)
Location: TD Garden
Bruins projected lines
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk-David Krejci-David Backes
Ryan Donato-Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson-Danton Heinen
Chris Wagner-Sean Kuraly-Noel Acciari
Zdeno Chara-Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk-Kevan Miller
Torey Krug-John Moore
Sabres projected lines
Jeff Skinner-Evan Rodrigues-Sam Reinhart
Conor Sheary-Vladimir Sobotka-Tage Thompson
Remi Elie-Casey Mittelstadt-Jason Pominville
C.J. Smith-Johan Larsson-Kyle Okposo
Jake McCabe-Rasmus Ristolainen
Marco Scandella-Rasmus Dahlin
Lawrence Pilut-Zach Bogosian
– Jake DeBrusk will move to left wing for the first time this season as Backes gets his crack at second line minutes. David Krejci, hours removed from the birth of his second child, tallied a three-point night during Boston’s win over Calgary. They’ll likely have a revolving door on the second line as the trade deadline looms, but Backes’ power forward presence provides a good counter to the 6-foot-6 Tage Thompson.
– Backes’ return reunites Ryan Donato with Danton Heinen and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson. The ‘college hockey line’ had a decent stretch when Bruce Cassidy formed the trio in mid-December and gave the Bruins a secondary scoring boost prior to Patrice Bergeron’s return.
– One stat that shows the Sabres’ improvement is their record when trailing after two periods. Their six wins sit tied for second — with the Ducks and Habs and their .333 winning percentage is good for third with the Flames. Even without Eichel, the Bruins will have their hands full against Jeff Skinner and company as the two teams wrap up their four-game regular season series.