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Ice Breakers: Bruins-Sabres, Monday March 29th

The Bruins (34-28-12) will look to build on Saturday’s stomping of the Flames tonight when they finish up their brief three-game homestand against Northeast Division leaders, the Buffalo Sabres (41-23-10).

Boston has actually had a good level of success against the Sabres this season, winning three of the four previous meetings. The B’s, still with eight games remaining on their schedule, hope to be playing more than that, if they’re able to nab a playoff spot. Buffalo has the good fortune of being able to relax a bit, as they clinched their first playoff spot since 2007 with Saturday’s 7-1 thumping of the Lightning. The Sabres enjoy a five-point lead over Ottawa for the division lead, with two games in hand.

Let’s now take a closer look at some pre-game notes heading into tonight’s pivotal division matchup at the Garden…

  • Injuries have mounted for the Sabres, as four of their top players will likely miss tonight’s game with various bumps and bruises. Team scoring leader Tim Connolly (foot), Thomas Vanek (lower body), Patrick Kaleta (upper body), and newly acquired Raffi Torres (wrist) are all listed as day-to-day, but the Boston Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa has reported this afternoon that all four are out of action tonight. For Boston, Andrew Ference (groin) and Marc Savard (concussion) will miss the game.
  • Behind Connolly on the stat sheet, the Sabres feature the red hot Derek Roy (22G, 38A), whose hat trick propelled Buffalo to that 7-1 win over the ‘Ning Saturday, followed by Jason Pominville (23G, 35A).
  • According to reports from both morning skates, look for tonight’s goalie matchup to feature two netminders from the U.S. Olympic team, as Olympic tournament MVP Ryan Miller (37-16-8, 2.21GAA) will match up against reigning Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas (16-17-8, 2.50GAA).
  • Miller is backed up by veteran netminder Patrick Lalime (4-6-2, 2.86GAA) who, with Saturday’s win, became the 66th goalie in league history to earn 200 career wins.
  • Buffalo is one of just two remaining teams league-wide that haven’t blown a lead heading into the third period. Los Angeles is the only other squad that can boast that stat.
  • Tonight’s game features two of the top penalty-killing units in the NHL, as Boston currently ranks second (85.8%), followed by Buffalo at 85.7%. St. Louis is the only team above these two, at 86.3%.
  • Lastly, a familiar local face, particularly to Boston College fans, will be featured in tonight’s lineup for the Sabres, as former Eagle Nathan Gerbe will skate for Buffalo tonight. Gerbe, a fifth-round selection back in 2005, was called up from Portland yesterday. This will be his third game on the year for the Sabres, having notched a goal and an assist in his previous two.

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