The Bruins (24-22-11), fresh off their Super Sunday shutout of the Montreal Canadiens north of the border, return to native soil tonight at HSBC Arena in Buffalo to take on the division-leading Sabres (32-18-7).
While everyone already knows of the recent struggles of our own hometown hockey team, the Sabres haven’t been much better as of late. Losers of their last four games, including back-to-back losses over the weekend to the lowly likes of Carolina and Columbus, the Sabres find themselves searching for answers heading into next week’s Olympic break. Buffalo has led the Northeast Division for much of the regular season thus far, but that streak could end tonight, as their lead over the surging Ottawa Senators has dwindled to just one point, with the Sens also in action this evening.
Turning our focus back on the locals, the B’s hope to build off a superb performance Sunday over the Habs, a 3-0 game that featured rookie Adam McQuaid’s first NHL goal, two lamplighters from Marco Sturm, and a 36-save outing for the team’s new top goaltender, Tuukka Rask, his fourth career shutout. Heading into tonight’s action, Boston finds themselves tie for the ninth spot in the East, knotted at 59 points with the New York Rangers, two points out of the eighth and final playoff spot.
Let’s throw some pregame notes at you to get you pumped and jacked before tonight’s big skate…
- This will be the fourth meeting of the season between these two rivals, with Boston having taken the first two back in November, followed by a Buffalo win last month, 2-1.
- Boston lost and gained a defenseman over the pair of games from the weekend. Rookie Johnny Boychuk took a puck in the face during Saturday’s game against Vancouver, breaking his orbital bone. It could have been a lot worse for the young blue liner, but he won’t require surgery and will be able to return after the Olympic break. Defenseman Andrew Ference, sidelined for the past 14 games with a groin injury, returned to the lineup Sunday in Boychuk’s place.
- Center David Krejci, who left Sunday’s game in the first period with a right leg injury, did not skate during yesterday’s off day, but reports from the team’s official site indicate he is on the ice this morning with the team and is likely to suit up for tonight’s game.
- Buffalo’s pair of walking wounded include agitator Patrick Kaleta (foot) and former Bruin Steve Montador (hip), both of whom will likely be out of action this evening.
- Reports from both team’s morning skates point to a goalie matchup of Tuukka Rask against Ryan Miller tonight. Rask is just 1-1-2 in his last four starts, but hasn’t given up more than two goals in any of those contests. You can root for Miller beginning next week when he will likely be the starting goalie for the U.S. Olympic team, but tonight, hope he gets a bad game out of his system against the B’s.
- Buffalo has given up four or more goals in eight of its last nine losses. Their only two wins over the last ten games have been 2-1 wins, over New Jersey and Boston.
- Buffalo’s scoring is led by center Tim Connolly (14G, 38A), followed by winger Jason Pominville (15G, 26A), center Derek Roy (12G, 27A), and veteran winger Thomas Vanek (17G, 20A). Vanek has been the lone bright spot offensively for the Sabres lately, with five goals and seven assists in his last 12 games.
- Buffalo’s rookie defenseman Tyler Myers was named the NHL’s Rookie of the Month for January. The 6′ 8″ Myers put up ten points and averaged over 25 minutes of ice time during the month.
- Tonight’s matchup will feature the league’s top two penalty-killing units, as Buffalo owns the top spot with an 86.8% mark, followed by the Bruins hot on their heels, at 86.7%.
Tags: Adam McQuaid, Andrew Ference, Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, David Krejci, Johnny Boychuk, Marco Sturm, Ryan Miller, Thomas Vanek, Tim Connolly, Tuukka Rask, Tyler Myers