Bruins, Sabres try to get back on winning track
BRUINS (16-8-4) at SABRES (12-14-4)
TV -- NESN (HD), MSG-B (HD)
Last 10 --
Boston 5-3-2; Buffalo 5-4-1
Season series --
This is the third meeting between the Northeast Division rivals this season, with the Bruins winning the first two games. On Nov. 3, Brad Marchand
and Michael Ryder
had a goal and an assist each in a 5-2 win in Buffalo, and on Dec. 7, Mark Recchi
's overtime goal gave the Bruins a 3-2 victory in Boston.
Big Story --
Both teams will look to get back after rough home losses in their last games -- the Bruins dropped a 2-1 overtime decision to the Flyers on Saturday, while the Sabres were routed by the Penguins, 5-2.
With three games in four days starting Wednesday in Buffalo, coach Claude Julien kept his players off the ice Sunday and Monday.
"Sometimes a couple of days off is good for you," Julien told the team's website following Tuesday's practice.
The rest certainly seemed to help, as Julien was happy with the way Tuesday's practice went.
"I think it is a big week for us," Julien told the team's website. The Bruins face the Sabres, Montreal Canadiens and Washington Capitals over the next five days. "I think we've kind of approached the last couple of weeks the same way."
The rough practice Lindy Ruff subjected his players to wasn't a punishment so much as a chance for the coach to evaluate the status of injured forwards Drew Stafford and Tim Connolly.
Stafford has missed 15 of the last 16 games with an upper-body injury, while Connolly has missed the last eight with a groin injury.
"We had a good look at practice (Monday)," Ruff told the team's website. "We want to make sure that, physically, both of them are up to the task. We've got two or three good, hard practices with Tim now, and Drew, today was probably his first real tough test. I thought he wasn't quite up to my expectations on the physical side but he might have been just protecting a little."
Who's Hot --
Bruins goalie Tim Thomas
is unbeaten in regulation in five games (3-0-2). He continues to lead the League with a 1.51 goals-against average and .954 save percentage. … Sabres forward Thomas Vanek has 4 goals and 7 points in his last five games.
Injury Report --
Bruins defenseman Mark Stuart
is expected to miss the rest of the calendar year with a broken finger, and rookie forward Tyler Seguin
is questionable for Wednesday's game with flu-like symptoms. … For the Sabres, Stafford and Connolly are questionable, while defenseman Shaone Morrisson is out indefinitely with concussion-like symptoms. Center Rob Niedermayer skated Monday for the first time since having knee surgery last month, but is doubtful for Wednesday's game.
Stat Pack --
The Bruins haven't gotten much from their power play -- they're tied for 18th with 18 power-play goals -- but they've been great 5-on-5. They entered Tuesday's games second in the League with an average of 1.5 goals for every even-strength goal allowed.
Puck Drop --
Sabres forward Nathan Gerbe has proven to be a prolific scorer at every level he's played, but so far it hasn't happened at the NHL level. He has 2 goals in 40 games over three seasons, and just 5 assists in 20 games this season. However, Ruff is far from giving up on Gerbe.
"He does have what it takes," Ruff told WGR 550 AM's website. "I thought he would've scored because he's got one heck of a shot. He's gone a little east/west when he could go north/south. Early in this slump he passed up some great scoring opportunities. I think he realizes now that he's got to be a shooter in some of those situations, but I would like to think right now that he can still be a scorer in this League."