Boston, MA -- The Buffalo Sabres have had plenty of time to think over their tough 5-2 loss at the hands of the surging Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night -- perhaps more than enough time in their eyes.
After a late second period tally by the Sabres goals and points leader, Thomas Vanek, the team came into the third period leading by one goal. However, the Sabres were unable to complete a full defensive effort, as the Penguins responded by rattling off four straight goals in the final frame to put a stamp on the win.
"The work was there," Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said on the team’s website. "We were pretty smart all night. We gave it away in basically 6 minutes."
"We played really solid for 50 minutes and didn't play well for ten," he said. "They made some plays and (the puck) ended up in the back of our net. We're tired of getting scored against. We've got to make sure we sharpen up defensively and be ready for our next game.”
Buffalo enters Wednesday night's Northeast division contest against the first-place Bruins trailing by only five points in the standings.
Rebounding from their last loss won’t be just a walk in the Boston Common, however, as the Eastern Conference’s second best team is riding a 9-1-1 record over their last eleven games.
After their difficult-to-take shootout defeat at the hands of the sizzling New York Rangers over the weekend Monday night in Toronto featured a workman like effort by the Bruins. The team battled hard against their neighbors to the north and staved another comeback attempt to earn the important 3-2 division win over the Maple Leafs.
“Toronto always finds a way to come back into the game and they did it again,” Bruins forward Michael Ryder said after the win. “They kept pushing, but we stayed strong and earned the two points.”
“At different points in the season we’re going to have to win different ways,” Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas explained.
“Could we have played better? Definitely. Are we happy to get out of here with two points? Definitely.”
Tonight’s game at the Garden will be the third on the young season between the Northeast rivals. The teams are 1-1 against each other this season, with the Sabres taking the first meeting 3-2 at home in shootout fashion. A few weeks later the home team earned the win again, as this time the Bruins were able to get the best of goaltender Ryan Miller to spot a 3-1 victory.
In both contests, resurgent blue liner Dennis Wideman found his way to the back of the net, making besting the ever tough Sabres net minder look rather easy.
The divisional contest will also feature two of the league’s best backstops on the same sheet of ice. Although not playing his best hockey thus far, Miller is perennially one of the league’s best goalies, and still boasts a 2.22 GAA and .a 922 save percentage.
Thomas, who has incredulously been left off the All-Star ballot, leads all netminders with a 1.78 GAA and a remarkable .944 save percentage for the Bruins.
If back up goalie Manny Fernandez gets the nod, there promises to be little drop off in puck stopping ability, as he maintains some really decent numbers. In six games played, Fernandez has a 2.31 GAA and a .919 save percentage.
“Thomas is playing well for us, I can’t say enough about the guy,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “Since day one he’s been great. Our other goaltender [Fernandez] has done the job as well. One of the reasons that you win hockey games is when your goaltenders are good, and we’ve got two of them right now that are doing a great job.”
Coming into the game against Buffalo the Bruins understand that as the wins and their impressive play begins to pile up, so will the opposition’s awareness of their ability to play well. While other teams in the past may not have acknowledged the B’s as one of the teams to beat on any give night, perhaps things are beginning change.
“I think that teams are starting to recognize that we can play every night and that we’re a pretty good team,” Ryder explained. “We’ve just got to make sure that we stay consistent every night. We don’t want to drop off and we just want to come out and compete, that’s the main goal for us.”