BUFFALO The Bruins pretty clearly dont want anything close to a repeat performance of their last game against the Buffalo Sabres.
They created over 20 scoring chances for themselves, and that was an overwhelming positive. But they also had enough defensive zone coverage miscues for an entire months worth of games and allowed seven goals while also getting pushed around their rink by an obviously emotional Sabres bunch.
Unsurprisingly that led to Bostons only regulation loss in nine regular season games played this season, and a pretty easy blueprint for what not to do against Buffalo this time around. A little more of the typical hard to play against Bruins attitude and focused defensive intensity would be a good couple of places to start for the Black and Gold, who hope to have Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton back in the lineup on Sunday night at the First Niagara Center.
The Bruins bounced back from the Buffalo defeat with two much more typical efforts in allowing only one combined goal to the Maple Leafs and Canadiens over the last week.
We were much better, obviously, said coach Claude Julien. I think it was a little bit of a breakdown in our system and it happened to be against Buffalo. When you give that kind of team that kind of space and opportunities, theyre going to put the puck in the net.
Theres no doubt were going to focus on being better in our game without the puck tonight against the Sabres. Ryan Miller played well the last time out, but we still scored four goals against him. For us thats usually good enough for a win. We left our goalie hanging on a lot of our breakdowns. We hope to continue the offensive trend against them, but we need to tighten up defensively.
Thats the exact kind of grinding, relentless effort theyll be looking for on the road in Buffalo. Rather than hoping 6-foot-9 Zdeno Chara will pound enforcer John Scott into the ice, the Bruins will settle for a big improvement over the bogus effort that left him with a minus-3 against Vanek and the Sabres the last time out.
Weve showed a lot of character. The game in Montreal wasnt our best effort, but we found a way to get the two points, said Patrice Bergeron. We need a 60-minute effort tonight, but I like the way weve been battling.
It might also help if they can somehow slow down Thomas Vanek, who leads the NHL with 11 goals and 23 points in 11 games played this season and romped over Boston with a hat trick at TD Garden.
That means some of Bostons best defensive players namely Chara and Bergeron need to be much better than they were against the Sabres the first time around.
Were aware that they have some great players offensively, said Bergeron. Thats what they want: the 2-on-1s and the odd-man rushes. We know their D-men have good skill and move up the ice very well. We just need to be aware of that and just play our game. We didnt do that against them the first time.
The charge is there for the Bruins: Shut down Vanek and return to their punishing, exacting style of play against Buffalo. Fail to do those things or get too involved in the distractions that the agitating Sabres can throw at you, and the result could be disappointment for Boston all over again.