Bruins take killer instinct into Habs matchup

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Bruins take killer instinct into Habs matchup

WILMINGTON, Mass. The Bruins developed a killer instinct during the playoffs last year, and they once again can smell blood in the water.

The Bs have weakened and bested a pair of Eastern Conference adversaries over the last two weeks. Pittsburgh announced Kris Letang was out indefinitely the morning of its game with Boston, and then watched Sidney Crosby go back on the shelf after a particularly nasty battle between the two Eastern titans. They're 2-3 since losing to the B's.

And after Zdeno Chara pounded Philadelphia's biggest, baddest player, and then rained goals upon the Flyers' heads, it's not hard to see Philly -- already without Chris Pronger for the season, and now facing the prospect of losing Sean Couturier for a period after he was hit in the head by a teammates' shot on Saturday -- falling into the same kind of tailspin.

All of that has the Bruins close to the only real gift on their Christmas wish list: Sole possession of the Eastern Conferences top spot.

Our goal is to be on top of the Eastern Conference. We want to win the next two games leading up to Christmas and we want to win every game, said Dennis Seidenberg. Our goal is to play well the next two games, win those games and then go out on the road to start against winning run out there."

And the first of those two games is against yet another rival, more in spirit these days than in the standings: The Montreal Canadiens.

You want to be ready for every game, but when youre playing, for example the Flyers . . . theyre a big, physical team and youre so close in the standings, said Zdeno Chara. There is always extra motivation in those games.

"With Montreal its always a rivalry. Sometimes those things help you to get ready for the games.

Montreal is reeling, with 3 wins in its last 10 games and a new head coach in Randy Cunneyworth. Jacques Martin was fired after a coaching tenure that never truly lived up to Montreals great expectations.

The Habs badly need a victory. But they're playing a team that has won 18 of 21 since the beginning of November.

Its something thats out of our control, said Chara when asked about the mess that is Montreal. We know theyre going to be fired up and playing well, but we always have good games against each other.

The Bruins have done an almost flawless job of vanquishing their enemies and closest opponents this season, and that chance presents itself again on Monday night.

Those are the kind of contests the Bruins live for in an 82-game regular season schedule.

You guys in the media get excited about those rivalry games, and so do the players and coaches," said coach Claude Julien. "They are great games to play, and theres no doubt its much better than playing some game against a team in the other conference that youll see once this season. The two points are nice, but it doesnt create the same gap as a four-point game against a team like Montreal.

If the last two months are any indication, the Bruins will be ready for the challenge.

Rask stops 35 shots in Bruins' 2-1 win over Sabres

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Rask stops 35 shots in Bruins' 2-1 win over Sabres

BUFFALO, N.Y. - Tuukka Rask made 35 saves to help the Bruins hold off the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 on Saturday

David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron scored to give Boston a 2-0 lead and the Bruins improved to 3-0-1 in their past four.

Evander Kane scored his first goal of the season for Buffalo. Robin Lehner returned after missing one game with a hip injury and made 32 saves.

The Sabres combined for nine goals in their previous two wins but the NHL's lowest-scoring team reverted to form from the first 21 games, when star center Jack Eichel was out of the lineup with a high-ankle sprain.

Krejci got the Bruins on the scoreboard with 5:50 left in the first when he deflected Brandon Carlo's slap shot from the point off the right post and into the net.

The Sabres appeared to tie the game late in the second period but replays determined Brian Gionta kicked the puck into the net.

Bergeron made it 2-0 at 7:10 of the second at 7:44 of the third when he knocked on the rebound of his own missed shot. Bergeron initially hit the puck with his forearm on the left edge of the crease and skated around the net to chase down the puck and slip a backhand past Lehner.

The Sabres answered two minutes later, scoring on Rask for the first time in 109:12 this season. Sam Reinhart's feed off the rear wall set up Kane for a wrist shot from the slot that bounced in off Krejci. Reinhart has five points in his last four games.

NOTES: Bruins F Matt Beleskey was escorted to the dressing room in the final minute of the first period with a lower-body injury and did not return. ... Sabres D Josh Gorges did not play after injuring his foot blocking a shot in Thursday's win over the New York Rangers. With Dmitry Kulikov (lower back) and Zach Bogosian (MCL sprain) also out, the Sabres were down three of their top four defenseman and recalled 19-year-old Brendan Guhle from the minors to make his NHL debut. Guhle hustled back to thwart a breakaway by Krejci late in the third period. ... F Anton Blidh became the seventh Bruin to make his NHL debut this season after being recalled from the minors on Friday. ... The Bruins scratched F Jimmy Hayes. D Zdeno Chara, the Bruins' captain, missed his sixth straight game with a lower-body injury. ... Rask got a shutout in Boston's 4-0 win over Buffalo on Nov. 7.

UP NEXT

Bruins: Host Florida on Monday.

Sabres: At Washington on Monday.

 

© 2016 by STATS and The Associated Press.