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It’s a big week for the Black & Gold, as the Bruins (16-8-4) aim to climb the Eastern Conference standings, beginning tonight with a trip to Buffalo to take on the Sabres (12-14-4).
The B’s face a busy stretch of their schedule in the next week or so, with four games in the next six days, leading off with a set of back-to-back road games in Buffalo and Montreal. They’ve been able to take at least a point out of all six December games thus far, with a 4-0-2 record this month. Boston’s coming off a disappointing overtime loss to the high-flying Flyers, 3-2 Saturday at TD Garden, a game they lost with just three seconds left in the extra session.
Buffalo also fell in their last contest, dropping a 5-2 game to Pittsburgh on Saturday. The loss was their first in regulation in their last five games, a stretch that has seen the Sabres go 3-1-1 in that time. Despite their recent success, their early-season struggles still have the team on the outside of the current playoff picture, eight points behind Boston and Tampa Bay, who occupy the seventh and eighth spot in the East, tied with 36 points a piece. Boston, however, does have two games in hand over Tampa Bay, and Buffalo for that matter. No team has played fewer games than the B’s in fact, but that will change with their busy upcoming schedule.
Because these two squads squared off just eight days ago, there isn’t much in terms of new information I can share with you. But that doesn’t mean the well is completely dry… here are a few pre-game notes that you can memorize and impress your friends with later during the game…
– Tonight’s game marks the third of six meetings between these two division rivals. The Bruins have won the first two games this season, 5-2 on November 3rd and a 3-2 overtime win last week on Tuesday.
– The lengthy drama of the Marco Sturm trade has finally reached its grand finale. The Sturm deal was made official yesterday when the German-born winger passed a physical with his new team, the Los Angeles Kings. This completes the trade that sent Sturm to the left coast in exchange for… well, nothing. Not even a bag of pucks or a few new sticks. We’ll have to see what “future considerations” means down the line, but for now, the trade gets the Bruins under the salary cap, which was the ultimate goal for GM Peter Chiarelli.
– The B’s had Sunday and Monday off before a full team practice Tuesday at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington. The team also had full participation in a morning skate today at HSBC Arena, a practice that saw Tuukka Rask be the first goalie off the ice, which usually indicates that he will start in net this evening to face off with the Sabres. Rask, who is 2-6-1 this season with a 2.51GAA, last saw action Thursday night in the 5-2 win over the New York Islanders.
– Goaltending for Buffalo is led by U.S. Olympic hero, Ryan Miller (10-8-3, 2.41GAA) who is back to full health and back to top form. Backing Miller up is Jhonas Enroth (2-2-1, 2.90GAA).
– Forwards Derek Roy (9G, 20A) and Thomas Vanek (13G, 12A) lead the offense for Buffalo. Vanek is on a hot streak as of late, riding a three-game points streak, with four goals in his last five games and 18 points (9G, 9A) in his last 15.
– Buffalo could get some reinforcements back in their lineup this evening, with some talented players possibly ready to return from various bumps and bruises. Tim Connolly (groin), Drew Stafford (upper body), and Rob Niedermayer (knee) all practiced with the team earlier this week, and all could see action tonight for the Sabres, with Connolly and Stafford more likely to go then Niedermayer. Shaone Morrisonn, out with post-concussion symptoms, remains out of the lineup for Buffalo.