BUFFALO Revenge takes many different forms, and for the Bruins it will most likely take the form of two points at the end of Sunday night. If the Sabres mess with them as they did in their first home game in Boston a couple of weeks ago then the Bruins shouldnt show any hesitation in striking back.
But the Sabres are rounding out the bottom of the division despite holding the most games played of any team in the Northeast Division, and they should be coming into the game with a different kind of energy as this is their third game in the last four nights. Meanwhile, the Bruins have regained their defensive groove while allowing just a single goal in the last 120 minutes of hockey against the Maple Leafs and Canadiens.
The Bruins simply want to keep that string of quality playing moving while getting strong rebound games from players like Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron, who were scorched by Thomas Vanek for a hat trick the last time these two teams squared off. Vanek leads the NHL with 11 goals and 23 points scored this season, and has certainly caught the attention of the Bruins players and coaching staff.
We were much better, obviously, said 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.
Its expected that Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton will both return to the lineup. What isnt expected is that anybody is going to bother with Sabres enforcer John Scott this time around, though that could change if the 6-foot-8 forward takes liberties with Bruins players as he did the last time.
Instead the focus will be on banking points, and the Bruins will store away the memories of their bitter home loss to the Sabres for payment at a later date with another game in Buffalo scheduled five days from now
PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRES PUMPED: Dougie Hamilton has a single shot on net in his last two games, and the win over the Montreal was the first game this season where the rookie has been shut out without a single shot on net. Hamilton has also dropped to a minus-1 rating on the season in nine games and seems to be taking fewer chances offensively like he did in the first handful of games this season. Its too early to tell if its due to game circumstances or Hamilton is experiencing a simple rookie lull, so keep an eye on the 19-year-old in Sunday nights game against Buffalo.
DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: Were aware that they have some great players offensively. 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. Patrice Bergeron, among the Bruins defensive players hearing the clarion call to improve their game against the Sabres on Sunday night.
KEY MATCHUP: It all comes down to Zdeno Chara and Johnny Boychuk finding a way to neutralize Thomas Vanek after the Buffalo forward has blown up this season. He leads the NHL with 11 goals and 23 points in 11 games for the Sabres and torched the Bruins for a hat trick two weeks ago in Boston. Chara finished with a minus-3 and zero registered hits while he was chasing skaters and pucks all over the defensive zone. Vaneks career numbers (28 goals and 54 points in 46 career games) against Boston are off the charts, and Chara needs to prove he can be the Big Eraser against Buffalo on Sunday night.
STAT TO WATCH: 170 . . . That's the number of NHL coaching changes since Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff was named head of the Sabres in 1997.
INJURIES: Shawn Thornton (concussion), Dan Paille (eye) and Brad Marchand (shoulder) are all potentially available for the Bruins. Paille and Thornton both looked like they might be returning to the lineup based on morning skate, and Marchand might be sitting for the second straight game. Claude Julien termed all three game-time decisions.
GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: Tuukka Rask had only 20 saves against the Montreal Canadiens in a win Wednesday night, but his first period performance was the difference between a win and a loss. Anton Khudobin was the first goaltender off the ice for the Bruins during morning after starting one goal in the first three weeks of the season, and Claude Julien said it be either goalie that gets the start. Ryan Miller will get the call for the Sabres after also playing in last nights 3-2 win over the New York Islanders, and has been okay with a 3.07 goals against average and .909 save percentage. It might be challenging for Miller to bounce back while playing his third game in the last four days, but he has won two games in a row.