BUFFALO -- One wouldn’t blame any of the Bruins if the natural inclination was to look past their Sabres tilt tonight. They have the white hot San Jose Sharks waiting in Boston for a Thursday night showdown at TD Garden.
The Sharks have yet to be defeated in regulation through nine games during the regular season, and are once again off to a torrid start to their year.
Meanwhile, the Sabres are Atlantic Division doormats that score goals at the same pace that Buffalo thug John Scott accumulates shots on net, which is to say it’s become something of a rarity. The Sharks will boast Jumbo Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture and a host of others including 19-year-old Czech sensation Tomas Hertl when they take the ice on Thursday night.
The NHL-best +24 goal differential for the Sharks speaks for itself right now.
San Jose couldn’t be any hotter while averaging more than four goals per game as the NHL’s top offense, and the Sharks-Bruins clash should be a good test for both sides nearly one month into the season.
It would be understandable if the Bruins had one eye trained on the Sabres, and the other one wandering back to Boston with what awaits them tomorrow night.
But fortunately it’s a veteran B’s hockey club that knows looking ahead on the schedule is a foolhardy thing.
“It’s partially human nature to know the schedule, and know which games are coming up. There’s no denying that. But we have enough guys that have been around long enough, and we know you can’t look past any team in this league,” said Chris Kelly. “We had our best win of the season in Tampa last weekend, and we want to keep that rolling tonight against the Sabres. We’re more concerned on what’s going on with this team, and how we’re playing.
“Besides, two points is two points. If we lose tonight because we overlooked the Sabres and then lose to the Sharks tomorrow night then we’re out four points in a back-to-back situation. That’s not where we want to be.”
While the Bruins will be going with backup netminder Chad Johnson in his first appearance of the season against the Sabres, that isn’t a sign of the Black and Gold taking their downtrodden divisional rivals lightly. The players will also get a gentle reminder from their coach prior to Wednesday night’s game about that very subject.
“The biggest challenge is making sure that we focus on ourselves,” said Julien. “If we start focusing on the other team and their struggles, then you’re not mentally preparing yourself the way you should.
“There’s going to be a tough week with three games in four days. It’s not going to get any easier. So we might as well take advantage of the situation where we’re fresh, and ready to go here. We need to make sure we play well to build some momentum, and also get ready for the next one.”
That “next one” is against a San Jose Sharks club boasting an 8-0-1 record.