Bruins-Sabres preview: Let the hate flow

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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.

Win vs. Islanders 'a nice building block' for Bruins

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Win vs. Islanders 'a nice building block' for Bruins

BROOKLYN, NY – It wasn’t particularly entertaining and it won’t be all that memorable down the ride aside from the timing and importance of the meeting between the Bruins and Islanders. But it was a solid 2-1 team win for the Bruins over the Islanders at the Barclays Center on Saturday night with the B’s grinding all the way down to the end while protecting a one-goal lead through much of the third period.

Nearly everybody across Boston’s roster contributed in the major victory over the team trying to bypass them in the wild card standings, and it was a beautiful thing. Anton Khudobin stepped up when Tuukka Rask couldn’t start Saturday night’s showdown with a lower body issue, and Riley Nash supplied both Boston goals from a fourth line that’s played some of their best hockey lately.

It was unlikely heroes all around for the Black and Gold in the tightly-wound contest, but that diversity of talent and production can be a very good thing for a team looking to make that playoff push.

“You have to stay with it. You have to stay in the moment and stay with the game no matter what’s happening during the game. That’s how you get results, and that’s how you find ways to persevere through adversity,” said Patrice Bergeron. “We just got back to playing stingy, especially in the neutral zone. We got away from it the last few games, and it was nice tonight to be back playing a low-scoring game like what we’re used to playing.”

When it was all said and done the Bruins only allowed 19 shots on net and also killed off six penalties in the kind of grinding defensive showdown that you haven’t seen all that much out of the Black and Gold lately. It was exactly what Cassidy was looking for to snap the four-game losing streak, and once again start pushing the Bruins upward into the playoff chase.

“That’s the type of win that goes a long way in the room when your goaltender is battling hard and fighting that hard to see pucks and find pucks and your D are blocking shots. And you kill that many penalties. It was a nice building block for us,” said Cassidy. “From the goalie on out, everybody was in there [in the win]. It was a tough game. It was a nice Bruins win. We had been doing it with offense earlier, and we’ve got to be able to do it both ways. You need to be able to win 2-1 hockey games, and it had been awhile.”

Now it’s simply up to the Bruins to be feeling good about their latest win while going back to basics, and looking for more next time around after ending their worst losing streak of the season.

Anton Khudobin battles for a huge win filling in for Tuukka Rask

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Anton Khudobin battles for a huge win filling in for Tuukka Rask

BROOKLYN, NY – Things didn’t go so well last season for the Bruins when Tuukka Rask suddenly wasn’t well enough to play in the last game of the season, so there was good reason for the B’s to be a little nervous when their No. 1 goalie again couldn’t answer the bell Saturday night vs. the Islanders.

Anton Khudobin had won four games in a row headed into Saturday night, of course, and in his previous start he’d helped snap a 10-game winning streak for the Calgary Flames. So perhaps it wasn’t all that surprising when Khudobin stood tall for the Bruins making 18 saves in a tight, nervy 2-1 win over the Isles at the Barclays Center.

“You don’t have that many shots, but maybe 10 scoring chances…that can be tougher than seeing 30 shots and same amount of scoring chances,” said Khudobin. “But I’m glad got the job done, we got our points and we got the ‘W’.”

It wasn’t wall-to-wall action in a game where both teams combined for 37 shots on net, but it was still impressive that Khudobin and the B’s special teams killed off six Islander power plays in such a tight hockey game. After the B’s backup netminder was lauded for the way he battled in the crease and competed for pucks like his team’s very life was on the line in a pivotal game.

“That’s the type of win that goes a long way in the room when your goaltender is battling hard, and fighting that hard to see pucks and your D are blocking shots. And you kill that many penalties. It was a nice building block for us,” said Bruce Cassidy. “I loved his performance. He’s a battler. He got swimming a couple of times, but that’s Dobby. He keeps it interesting for you. He’s a battler and he always has been. That’s what we needed tonight.”

One could spend days analyzing Cassidy's words and wondering much of that was deserved, appreciative praise for Khudobin, and how much of that might have been a veiled message to Boston's No. 1 goaltender sitting back home in Boston. 

The best save of the night probably won’t even count as a save for the Russian netminder. It was John Tavares, after having beaten Khudobin once in the first period, moving into the offensive zone with speed during a third period power play, and getting an open look at the net front in the high slot. Khudobin thought quickly and dropped into the unconventional double-stack pad save that seemed to throw Tavares off just a little, and the Isles sniper smoked the shot off the crossbar rather than tying up the game.

“I didn’t touch it. I didn’t really have time to get there, so the only thing I tried to do was the two-pad stack, old school Bob Essensa-style,” said Khudobin, who has now improved to 6-5-1 with a 2.60 goals against and an .899 save percentage this season. “Then he hit the crossbar. You need to get some luck in this league, and if you don’t get luck you’re going to lose games.”

A little luck and a little good, old-fashioned battling between the pipes was enough for Khudobin and the Bruins in Saturday night’s mammoth win. Now the questions become whether or not to go right back to Khudobin again on Tuesday at home against the Nashville Predators.