Rivalry Night in primetime for Bruins, Sabres

Rivalry Night in primetime for Bruins, Sabres
October 23, 2013, 4:15 pm
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BUFFALO -- For the Bruins it’s pretty simple: Go about your business and take care of the Sabres like just about every other opponent has this season.

Buffalo has a very real set of problems when their home fans chant “Fire Darcy” during restless moments at the First Niagara Center to show their unrest with the performance of Sabres general manager Darcy Regier.

The Sabres can’t score goals, as their NHL-worst 1.2 goals per game would attest, and they have a group of floundering defensemen like the disappointing Tyler Myers that can’t keep the puck out of their zone.

For the Bruins there is a danger that the Sabres could use all of the vitriol they've been hearing to put together a focused effort against the Bruins on Wednesday night. There’s an equally likely danger that the Bruins will overlook the Sabres with a red-hot San Jose Sharks team waiting for them in Boston on Thursday night.

The Bruins will be reminded of that very set of circumstances by their coach prior to tonight’s tilt in the Buff.

“The guys already have an idea about it, but you mention it for the sake of making sure we’re all on the same page here,” said Claude Julien. “But I’d like to think we have enough experience here to be able to handle those kinds of situations properly.”

Buffalo captain Steve Ott has had plenty of experience getting into spirited scraps with the Bruins in the past, and he’s looking for something to spark a Sabres bunch looking for a little confidence.

“They’re a really competitive team, former Stanley Cup champs and they’ve got a lot of talent over there,” said Ott, who has managed just one assist in 10 games for Buffalo this season. “The hard hockey games, or the compete games, they usually bring out my skill level. Those are the fun ones to play in.”

So the Sabres will be trying to have some fun after getting slapped around by the first month of the NHL schedule, and the Bruins will be doing everything in their power to take Buffalo seriously. That set of factors should make for some interesting hockey theater for a prime time “Rivalry Game” on the NBC Sports Network starting at 8 p.m.
 
PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRED PUMPED: Jarome Iginla leads the Bruins with 24 shots on net and has enjoyed umpteen scoring chances in his seven games with Boston, but he hasn’t been able to make any of them count as of yet. He has set up some of his teammates as his two assists on the season would attest to, and he certainly appears to be the strong-on-the-puck power forward as advertised to Boston. But a goal would ease some of the pressure after he’s missed on some power play chances in recent games, and he’ll continue to occupy this space until he does finally score. This is now the second slowest start of his career dating back to 1999-2000 when he went the first 11 games without a goal while still a young buck with the Calgary Flames.
 
DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: “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.” -- Chris Kelly, who won’t be overlooking the moribund Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday night.
 
KEY MATCHUP: For the Bruins it will likely come down to exposing and exploiting struggling Buffalo Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers each time he’s on the ice. The former Calder Trophy-winning defenseman appeared to have the goods during his first season with the Sabres, but it’s been a slow downward spiral for the 6-foot-7 defenseman. He’s a minus-6 on the season while averaging 21:52 of ice time for Buffalo, and the Bruins perhaps previewed what they’ll do to Myers by torturing fellow lanky defenseman Victor Hedman in Tampa last weekend. Whichever Bruins forward group was on the ice continually hammered away at Hedman in front of the net, and left him a minus-5 when the dust had settled on Saturday’s win over the Lightning.
 
STAT TO WATCH: Minus-1 . . . That's the plus/minus for scuffling Brad Marchand. He's the only Bruins player expected to play tonight that has a negative plus/minus rating on the season.
 
INJURIES: Marc Savard (post-concussion syndrome) is on the long term injured reserve, and is again expected to miss the entire season. Otherwise the Bruins are completely healthy.

Joel Armia (hand), Corey Tropp (jaw), Ville Leino (rib) and Cody McCormick (leg) are all banged up and out for the Buffalo Sabres. Patrick Kaleta will also sit out while serving a 10-game suspension for his head shot on Columbus defenseman Jack Johnson.
 
GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: Chad Johnson will be playing his first game as a member of the Boston Bruins a month after pitching a preseason shutout against the Detroit Red Wings in his last game action. Johnson has posted solid numbers in 10 NHL games spread out over several seasons with the New York Rangers and Phoenix Coyotes organizations, but this season will represent his best shot to carve out a niche as an NHL-caliber backup goaltender.

Ryan Miller might be 1-6-0 in a rough start for the Buffalo Sabres, but the Sabres goaltender hasn’t been the issue in Buffalo. He’s also had some gems against the Bruins as his 25-8-7 career record against Boston would attest to along with his 2.51 goals against average and .920 save percentage. Things have been a little different between the Bruins and Sabres after the Milan Lucic plowed Miller two years ago when the lithe Buffalo goalie ventured outside the crease, but Miller still seems to save his best for Boston.