Big story: The Buffalo Sabres, the 2010 Northeast Division champions, face the threat of elimination when they meet the Boston Bruins, the 2009 Northeast Division champions, in Game 6 Monday at TD Garden. The Sabres won Games 1 and 5, suffering a three-game losing streak in Games 2-4. Now, they must win three in a row and they started the right way with a convincing 4-1 victory Friday in Buffalo.
This is the 12th meeting of the division rivals this year. The Bruins hold a 7-4 advantage in regular-season and playoff games and can close out the best-of-seven Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series with a win at home Monday (7 p.m., NESN, MSG, CBC). They gained home-ice advantage with the Game 2 win in Buffalo and must hold it in Game 6.
Bruins: The repeating pattern in this series is that the Sabres come out flying and gain an early lead. Then, the Bruins win the third period. The Bruins know they have to come out with more energy and a greater emphasis on scoring early in Game 6. They changed lines for Sunday's practice, putting checker Daniel Paille back on the fourth line with center Steve Begin and Shawn Thornton, promoting Marco Sturm to the first line with Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi and placing rugged Milan Lucic with playmaker David Krejci and shooter Miroslav Satan. Agitator Vladimir Sobotka will center Blake Wheeler and Michael Ryder.
Sabres: The Sabres found the winning formula Friday when they outhit and outhustled the Bruins from the start of the game, built a three-goal lead and then blocked all the shooting lanes in the third period. Tyler Ennis, who played only 10 regular-season games, leads the Sabres with four points and has added a lot of energy to the line with Derek Roy and Jason Pominville. The Sabres are hoping Thomas Vanek can play in Game 6, but he walks very gingerly on the ankle sprain he suffered in Game 2.
Who's hot: Buffalo's Pominville had a goal and an assist Friday. Ennis had a goal and an assist Friday and an assist in Wednesday's Game 4. Cody McCormick has assists in the last two games, the only ones he's played in the series. … Boston defenseman Johnny Boychuk has a goal and an assist in the past two games as does Satan, the double-overtime hero of Game 4.
Injury report: Buffalo's Vanek may play in Game 6. He'll practice Monday and then the team will make a decision. Jochen Hecht is out of the series after pinkie finger surgery last week. … Boston's Mark Stuart is out after finger surgery. Boston's Dennis Seidenberg is out for the year after arm-tendon surgery. Boston's Marc Savard (concussion) has a neurological test scheduled for Monday. He is unlikely to play in Game 6.
Stat pack: The Sabres need to repeat on Monday the fast start they had Friday, when outshot the Bruins in the first period, 12-5, outhit them 17-8 and blocked 12 shots en route to a 4-1 victory. When it was over, the Sabres had outhit the Bruins, 35-25 and blocked 29 shots to the Bruins' nine. The Bruins outshot the Sabres, 21-7, in the third period to build a 35-33 edge in the game over the Sabres
Puck drop: Boychuk has made a big impact in this series with a goal and two assists, and big open-ice checks that put Vanek and Matt Ellis out of the lineup. He was asked Sunday if the Bruins' practice line changes were a sign of panic.
"Absolutely no reason to panic. They’re the one we have backed into a corner," Boychuk said. "We’ve just got to go in for the kill. We’ve got two more cracks at it. And you know what? We should only need one."