Bruins-Sabres preview: Let the hate flow


Bruins-Sabres preview: Let the hate flow

Perhaps it will be another fight night at TD Garden. Even if it isn't, it will instead be about divisional opponents going for two points in a shortened 48-game regular season. The Bruins and Sabres clearly dont like each other and have plenty of past history, but theres also the sneaking suspicion that gooning it up isnt going to serve Buffalo despite the roster additions of John Scott and Steve Ott.

I think the fight talk is speculation, said Claude Julien. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesnt. So you can waste a lot of time thinking about it and answering questions. But you deal with it when it happens . . . if it happens.

The assumption when the Sabres signed the 6-foot-8, 260-pound Scott and traded for the irascible Ott is that Buffalo was looking to match the big, bad style of play employed by the Bruins and perhaps settle a few scores from last years testy matchups. The Bruins have scratched Chris Bourque for the first time in seven games and have activated AHL enforcer Lane MacDermid, so its not of bounds to believe that Boston thinks things could get a little rough in the hockey game.

Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff indicated that couldnt be further from the truth, and that the Sabres were invading the TD Garden ice with two points on their mind.

"We added Ott and Scott for added team toughness and to make us an overall grittier team," the Sabres coach said. "It had absolutely nothing to do with the Bruins. You try to win the puck battles and territorial battles, said Ruff. We have to win a game. In a short season we need points. We dealt with it last year where Gaustad fought Lucic and where Robyn Regehr fought Chara. We played a couple of great games and took away points. Hockey is about winning the physical battle and winning the mental battle. We're here to get the points."

That makes sense given that Buffalo is last in the Northeast Division with a 2-3-1 record and five points to start the season. But it would be surprising if Otts antics and the presence of Scott dont portend a few bits of nastiness between two hockey clubs that dont like each other much after a slew of games against each other each and every season.

PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRED PUMPED: Buffalo defenseman Tyler Myers has had a rough ride the last couple of years after winning the Calder Trophy as a rookie sensation with the Sabres. That rough ride continues this season for Myers, who has one point and a minus-2 in the first six games of this season for Buffalo. I wouldnt have guessed that Christian Ehrhoff and Jordan Leopold would be averaging more ice time than Myers this season, but thats been the case in the early going.

DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: "We always have good games with them. They always come out hard and we need to do the same. Theyve added a few guys and in the right time and place they have those guys that will fight a little bit more. Last year was last year. After what happened in the next game Lucic did what he had to do with Gaustad and thats over. By no means are we thinking about that. This is a good hockey team in Buffalo and when its a shortened season youre playing these teams a lot of times. So the two points are the thing. Chris Kelly on a matchup with the Buffalo Sabres that many think is going to have its share of hockey fight fireworks.

KEY MATCHUP: Thomas Vanek (3 goals, 7 assists) and Jason Pominville (4 goals, 5 assists) have a combined 19 points in Buffalos first six games and clearly powered the Sabres offense in the early going. It will be up to Zdeno Chara and Johnny BoychukDougie Hamilton to shut down their forward line and shut things down offensively. Chara has been in midseason form defensively to start the season and has been among Bostons best all-around players with five points in the first six games.

STAT TO WATCH: 3 The game against the Buffalo Sabres starts off a stretch of three games in a row against Northeast Division opponents with road tilts against the Maple Leafs and Canadiens dead ahead.

INJURIES: Rugged defenseman Robyn Regehr (lower body) is listed as day-to-day after missing Tuesday's game. Forward Patrick Kaleta will miss the game after spending Tuesday night in a hospital with a neck injury sustained when he was boarded by Toronto's Mike Brown. Cody McCormick (finger) and Ville Leino (strained right hip) are on injured reserve.

GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: Tuukka Rask will be making his sixth appearance of the season and has been everything the Bruins have wanted him to be thus far. For the season Rask is 4-0-1, and is fifth in the NHL with a 1.74 goals against average and a .932 save percentage. The Bruins will take those kinds of numbers stretched out over the long haul of a 48-game shortened season. Ryan Miller has always had a strong sense of antipathy for the Bruins during his Buffalo career and that should be no different in Thursday nights showdown. Miller is having a typically good start with a 2.37 goals against average and .925 save percentage, and perhaps the abbreviated NHL season will be a help to him as hes seemed to wear down in the past.

Injuries have created a muddled picture with Bruins goaltenders

Injuries have created a muddled picture with Bruins goaltenders

It’s hard to believe that it’s already come to this, but it might just be Malcolm Subban between the pipes for the Bruins on Tuesday night against the Minnesota Wild, and perhaps again on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.

The 22-year-old Subban has been pulled from two ineffective starts for the P-Bruins in four AHL starts this season (.846 save percentage and a 4.50 goals against average in four games) while coming back from last year’s fractured larynx injury. He's also a player the organization was uncertain enough about that they signed veteran backup Anton Khudobin to a two-year deal on the July 1 open of NHL free agency.

Subban attributed his start to a slow opening few weeks with a new P-Bruins roster of players, but that hasn’t stopped fellow P-Bruins goalie Zane McIntyre from putting up excellent numbers between the pipes in the early going.

But Khudobin went down with an injury mere minutes into Monday morning’s Bruins practice at Warrior Ice Arena, and Tuukka Rask been battling a nagging leg injury since the season opening win against the Blue Jackets.

So Subban was the last goalie standing on Monday as an emergency recall from Providence, and could be in line to play Tuesday night against the Wild if the Bruins medical staff can’t perform some Mr. Miyagi-style healing techniques on Rask or Khudobin.

“Khudobin got injured and couldn’t practice with us, but I haven’t heard anything yet [on an update],” said Julien following practice. “This is hockey. We deal with it on daily basis with the injuries. We wait for the news and then it’s about doing your job as it’s required. If we have to make some adjustments and have to have some different personnel, then we’ll deal with it when we have more of an update. Tuukka is still day-to-day, so nothing is changed there.

“We’re in a situation here where we’ll see what happens, and if [Subban] needs to go in goal then he’ll go in goal. It’s as simple as that. As a coach, there’s one thing that worries me and that’s ‘stop the puck.’ I’m not a goalie coach, so I’m just demanding on making the saves.”

Subban, of course, hasn’t been making the saves down in Providence early in the going there this season, and is entering the stage of his career where he needs to begin showing signs of being a potential No. 1 guy at the NHL level.

Fellow goalies from the 2012 NHL draft class like Andrei Vasilevskiy, Joonas Korpisalo, Matt Murray, Connor Hellebuyck and Frederik Andersen have all begun making their mark in the league, and Subban was selected higher than all of them except for Tampa’s Vasilevskiy. So in the final year of his entry level deal it’s high time for the 22-year-old to begin showing signs he can play in the league, whether it’s in Boston or elsewhere.

He admitted on Monday he might have been putting too much pressure on himself down in Providence while watching the injury issues play out with Tuukka Rask in Boston.

Subban was worried about the big picture of stringing together saves so he was the guy called up if the Bruins needed a goalie, and instead should have been focusing more on the present opponents at the AHL level.

“I put a lot of pressure on myself. I think anybody that knows me well knows that. I don’t like to let in goals no matter what happens, whether it’s breakdowns or not it’s my job [to stop the puck]. If there were no breakdowns then you wouldn’t need a goaltender,” said Subban. “I want to make every save and get a shutout every game. I think the biggest thing is just relaxing and playing, and knowing that it’s okay to let a goal in every once in a while.

“So I think in my position right now I’m supposed to be playing really well down there, and I think that go in my head a little bit. I was trying to get a shutout every game rather than going game-by-game and shot-by-shot. I was overthinking it too much. But collectively as a team we’re a new team and we were trying to get the chemistry together, and once we do that the D-zone will be better and the offensive zone game will come.”

If Subban does indeed get the emergency start on Tuesday night against the Wild, the Bruins just have to hope that it’s a better outing than getting pulled in his NHL debut against the Blues two seasons ago after allowing three goals on three straight shots to start the second period. They also have to hope that Rask or Khudobin get well quick given Boston’s shaky situation on defense in front of the goaltender, and the stretch they’re in of playing six straight opponents that qualified for last spring’s Stanley Cup playoffs.

If not then watch out below because every hockey person knows there’s no quicker way for a hockey club to really begin imploding than if the goaltending starts to become a major problem whether it’s because of injury, inconsistent performance or simply because of being a straight-up sieve.

McQuaid cleared to play, nearing return to Bruins lineup


McQuaid cleared to play, nearing return to Bruins lineup

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- It was a bitter pill for Adam McQuaid to sit out the first five games of this season, but it looks like the veteran Bruins stay-at-home defenseman is nearing a return to the lineup. McQuaid was cleared to potentially play in Saturday’s loss to the Montreal Canadiens after an upper body injury kept him shelved for the team’s first four games, and could be approaching a return in the next few days as Claude Julien mulls a number of possible lineup changes.

“It was obviously frustrating, but I’m where I’m at now and trying to move on from it. Looking forward to getting back into the lineup hopefully as soon as possible here,” said the 30-year-old McQuaid, who had a goal and nine points in 64 games for the Black and Gold last season. “The excitement level is high for me, and it is for everybody after a loss when you’re looking forward to getting back out there.

“It would have been nice to have started the season with the guys, but you can’t change that now. I’ve had some good practices, and I’m just trying to my game as simple as possible, and take it as it comes. Obviously guys have played some games and it’s been a couple of weeks for me, so I’ll just have to keep my game simple.”

The B’s bench boss indicated it was only a matter of time before McQuaid makes his 2016-17 regular season debut, but that he’s got plenty of things to decide prior to dropping the puck against the Wild.

“[McQuaid] was cleared last game. I haven’t made any decisions based for [Tuesday night vs. Minnesota]. There’s a lot of things that are up in the air, and I’ve just go to juggle those things,” said Julien. “Who knows? Hopefully tomorrow morning I’ve got a better picture [of injury situation], and if not then it will be game-time decisions. I wish I could have a better answer [on if McQuaid will play], but I’ve got no answers right now.”

With Colin Miller (minus-4), Joe Morrow, Torey Krug (a rough minus-3 against Montreal) and John-Michael Liles all minus players after the first five games of the season, there are ample options for Julien on which potential blueliner to bump up to the press box. McQuaid is just happy he’s getting closer to a return while skating with 23-year-old Rob O’Gara at practice, and he can get back to helping a B’s team that’s smack dab in the middle (ranked 15th allowing 3.0 goals per game) of the NHL for team defense this season.