Bruins-Sabres preview: Rebound against Buffalo

Bruins-Sabres preview: Rebound against Buffalo
December 21, 2013, 11:30 am
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(AP Photo)

The Bruins clearly don’t want to be the team that hands the Buffalo Sabres their first three-game winning streak since last April.

The Bruins will come into Saturday night riding a seven game home winning streak, and they haven’t lost a game in regulation on the TD Garden ice since Oct. 26 – a span of 13 games where they’ve gone 11-0-2 while dominating on home ice. Clearly the Sabres are playing a better brand of hockey, and Ryan Miller is back to standing on his head for a Buffalo team that might just want to hold onto him.

But even so the Bruins went into a third period on the road with a tied score, outshot their opponent by a 15-5 margin in the final 20 minutes and still found themselves losing by a pair of goals. That was a goaltending issue that shouldn’t repeat itself with the Bruins clearly the superior time.

“We deserved a better fate, I think, than what happened,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “I thought we controlled the [Thursday night] game pretty good, but their goalie made some pretty big saves to keep them in the game.”

One interesting note: the Sabres will have offensively gifted forward Linus Omark in the fold after sending a sixth round draft pick to the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for him, and that might up their offensive potential. Either way, the Bruins will be doing everything they can to get back in the win column against Buffalo.
 
PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRED PUMPED: Both Ryan Spooner and Matt Fraser were called up from the Providence Bruins to provide offense and quality minutes for Boston while they go through injuries, and they’ve been decent players. But they haven’t shown much of their offensive abilities, their skill and – for Spooner – their blinding speed, so the Bruins will hope to start to see that out of them starting Saturday night against the Sabres. Spooner and Fraser have zero points – and 15 shots on net -- in 11 combined games since being called up from the AHL, and that’s not a flattering number at all. Both need to worry a little less about things they’re not very good at, and more about impacting the game with the skills that have them on the cusp of the NHL.
 
DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: “All I can say to our fans is thanks for the support, and on behalf of myself and the rest of the team we can wish you a very merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.” –Claude Julien wishing Happy Holidays to Bruins fans everywhere.  
 
KEY MATCHUP: The Sabres managed to get goals from unlikely places on Thursday night when Marcus Foligno, Tyler Myers and Drew Stafford all scored, and they’ve scored four goals in each of the last two games. But they’re still 30th in the NHL with 1.7 goals scored per game this season, and should be very discouraged if Zdeno Chara and the rest of the Bruins defense comes to play on Saturday night. There’s also a 100 percent chance that Tuukka Rask won’t be beaten on any wraparound game-winners in the third period.
 
STAT TO WATCH: 0-4-1 – the record for Tuukka Rask in his last six games against the Buffalo Sabres, with an unsightly goals against average above four to go right along with the winless record.
 
INJURIES: Dougie Hamilton (lower body) and Daniel Paille (concussion-like symptoms) are out for Saturday night’s game against Buffalo. Chris Kelly (fractured right fibula), Loui Eriksson (concussion) and Adam McQuaid (groin) are on injured reserve, but Claude Julien didn’t rule McQuaid out as a possibility against Buffalo. Shawn Thornton is serving a 15-game suspension.
Buffalo forward Cody McCormick (upper body) is on injured reserve and expected to miss 4-6 weeks with the problem.
 
GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: Tuukka Rask is back in the saddle for the Bruins against a Buffalo Sabres team that’s given him trouble over the last couple of seasons. Rask is 0-4-1 in his last six games against Buffalo with a 4.25 goals against average, and will be looking to step up after Chad Johnson couldn’t get it done Thursday night in Buffalo.
Ryan Miller, on the other hand, has helped key a hot streak for the Sabres, and has been in goal for four of the five contests and made 34 saves against the Bruins. He's 3-1-0 with a 1.72 goals-against average in his past four starts, and was part of the reason Buffalo came out with two points on Thursday night.