SABRES (44-25-10) at BRUINS (36-30-13)
Last 10: Buffalo 7-3-0; Boston 5-4-1.
Season Series: This is the sixth and the final meeting between the Northeast Division clubs. The Bruins have the lead in the series with a 4-2 win on Nov. 7, a 2-1 overtime victory on Nov. 20 and a 3-2 shootout victory on Feb. 9. The Sabres took a 2-1 win on Jan. 28 and their most recent matchup, less than two weeks ago on March 29, a 3-2 win. Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller made 40 saves in the victory.
Big Story: The Bruins have yet to clinch a playoff position and sit in the eighth and final spot in the Eastern Conference. If the Rangers had lost to the Maple Leafs on Tuesday, a win over the Sabres could have given them that playoff berth. But the Blueshirts won and sit one point behind Boston in ninth place.
After facing the Sabres, the Bruins have two games remaining on their schedule, as they face the Hurricanes on Saturday and the Capitals on Sunday. Thursday's game could also preview a potential playoff matchup, as the Sabres are assured a second- or third-place finish in the East having clinched the Northeast Division on Tuesday.
Sabres: Buffalo took the Northeast Division in style Tuesday night by handing the Rangers a 5-2 loss. Tied at 2-2 at the end of the first period, the Sabres would score twice in the second and another in the third to take the win. Left wing Tyler Ennis, in just his seventh game with the Sabres, tallied a goal and two assists, while Drew Stafford and Steve Montador both had two-point games. Ryan Miller finished the night with 28 saves, including a beauty on New York’s Marian Gaborik on a 3-on-1.
"That was one for the books," said coach Lindy Ruff. "That was an absolutely fabulous save. I think our guys built momentum off of that and we really went after them.
"After the past couple of years, to get back in and win the division is a big step for us," added Ruff, whose Sabres missed the last two postseason runs.
Bruins: Boston was dealt another serious blow on Tuesday when it lost the services of trade-deadline acquisition Dennis Seidenberg for eight weeks. The defenseman underwent surgery to repair a lacerated tendon in his left forearm. The laceration, which occurred on Saturday against the Maple Leafs, was originally not thought to be severe enough to keep him out of the game as Seidenberg traveled with the team to Washington on Monday.
Despite falling to the Capitals 3-2 in overtime, the Bruins put in a solid effort against Alex Ovechkin and the Presidents' Trophy winners. Down 1-0 in the first, Dennis Wideman blasted a one-timer past Jose Theodore with just 2 seconds left in the period. Patrice Bergeron then gave the B's the lead at the beginning of the second, before the Caps would tie the game to force the extra session.
"We'll take anything right now. That's a big point for us," said forward Mark Recchi. "It is something we can continue to build on. It spreads us a little farther from the Rangers and Philly and gets us a point closer to Montreal, so anything helps at this point."
Who's Hot: Tuukka Rask was named the NHL's Third Star of the Week last week. He leads the League with a .930 save percentage and 1.99 goals-against average. Bergeron picked up a goal and an assist against the Caps and led the B's with four shots. … Sabres center Derek Roy has five goals and three assists in his last six games, while Jason Pominville has a goal and three assists in his last four.
Injury Report: Sabres backup goaltender Patrick Lalime (illness) is questionable for Thursday, while Craig Rivet missed Tuesday's game with flu-like symptoms, but is expected to play on Thursday. Tim Connolly is out with a foot injury, while Thomas Vanek (lower body) is aiming for a weekend return. Patrick Kaleta (thumb surgery) is out for the season.
In addition to Seidenberg, Boston defenseman Mark Stuart (left pinky surgery/cellulitis) is out for two weeks and defenseman Andrew Ference (groin/hernia) is day-to-day. Forward Shawn Thornton (upper body) practiced on Wednesday, but is questionable for Thursday. Zdeno Chara broke his nose on Monday, but is expected to play. The captain wore a full cage at practice on Wednesday. Marc Savard (concussion) is on the injured reserve.
Stat Pack: The Bruins haven't had a power-play goal in their last five games and are 3-for-38 in their last 14. They do, however, rank third on the penalty kill behind the Blues and the Sabres.
Puck Drop: "It’s three games in four nights, which won’t be easy, but we need to rely on everybody in these situations. It means that the other D’s, the young guys, will step up at some point.
"It also means that our forwards have to really be good and help out and play well in our own end, so we can spend the least amount of time in there. It really is a matter of everybody buckling down and doing their job properly here to make it as easy as possible on our guys." -- Boston coach Claude Julien