The Buffalo Sabres last won a game on Feb. 26. They have lost seven straight since then, and remain in the last spot in the standings. They come into TD Garden on Tuesday night facing the Bruins in the second game of a back-to-back.
Still, the Bruins won't be overlooking them.
"Well, anybody who watched the game last night should know better. That’s my take on it," Julien said pregame on Tuesday from TD Garden, referencing the Sabres' 4-3 shootout loss to the Washington Capitals in D.C. on Sunday night in which they carried the play for most of the game.
"The Rangers beat them 2-0 with an empty-net goal. They’re very competitive. When you go out there and just go out there and play and compete hard and obviously [have] no pressure, you become a pretty good team and that’s what they are right now."
"The last two times we beat them, it took overtime so we’re certainly not in a position to come out and take them lightly."
While the Bruins sit in the second Wild Card for a playoff position, four points back of the Capitals with two games in hand, the Sabres are at a point in the season where the end is in sight.
"[Ted Nolan's] team continues to be competitive, [but] his team is still at the bottom. It’s tough for a coach. It really is tough for a coach," Julien empathized. "In his position, he wants his team to succeed and play well. I’m not sure overall that’s not what they want when they’re looking for the first overall pick, so it’s not an easy position to be in."
Tuesday's tilt caps off the four-game season series with Buffalo. As Julien mentioned, the Sabres still find a way to compete hard despite its place in the standings, especially against Boston.
"We're playing a tough game tonight in Buffalo - they've got a lot of young guys with a lot of energy and they're playing well, so we've got to be ready to compete and move our feet," said Chris Kelly.
"I think if you're going to take this team for granted, you're going to be in big, big trouble, because every game that they play, they're in the hockey game and it's a bounce here, a bounce there and they've been on the wrong side, but I think they're playing well and competing and doing the things a team needs to do to have success."
"We need to be ready to play and focus on our game."
"I think a lot of us watched their game against the Capitals last night and they came out with a good effort and carried the play for the most of that game," said Reilly Smith. "So they're still a really hard-working team, they'll be in your face and very opportunistic, so it will be important for us to come out with a good start."
"And we've had a lot of close games with them, so not taking them for granted will definitely be a huge focus."
After stringing together 11 straight games scoring first, the Bruins didn't have the start they wanted to last time out against the Caps, allowing a flurry of shots on Tuukka Rask in the first five minutes before straightening out there game. They eventually fell 2-0.
"We're trying to focus on ourselves and being ready at the drop of the puck," said Kelly. "I thought that was a big glaring thing in last game is they came out ready to play and it took us a little while to get our feet under us."
"We want to be ready to play right from the start and continue that throughout the course of the game, putting pucks in areas where we can get them back, being good on the forecheck and making sure we play well in all three zones."
The Bruins are completing their 14th set of three games in four nights on Tuesday. It also marks their eighth game in the past 13 days.
"We just have to play hard and I think it's not going to be an easy game, the rest of the season right now, so I think we have to keep ourselves positive," said David Pastrnak. "We don't have a playoff [spot] for sure, so we have to play hard and try and win as much games as we can."
While rest this month has been scarce, the winning has helped. Until Sunday's loss, the Bruins had been on a five-game win streak and an eight-game point streak (7-0-1).
"It's tough to do, but it's nice if you can get a couple of wins and string them together," said Smith. "It seems like it starts to roll over and that confidence is huge, especially when you're playing so many games in so many nights."
Svedberg Expected in Goal
Niklas Svedberg is expected to make the start between the pipes for Boston on Tuesday night. His last start came about a week ago on March 8, when he and the Bruins earned a 5-3 win over Detroit.
Svedberg has played the Sabres twice this season, winning both games. His first NHL shutout came on Oct. 18 in a 4-0 win over Buffalo, when the teams met for the first time this season. His second win came 3-2 in overtime on Oct. 30.
Projected Lineup vs. Sabres March 17
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Reilly Smith
Milan Lucic - Ryan Spooner - David Pastrnak
Chris Kelly - Carl Soderberg - Loui Eriksson
Daniel Paille - Gregory Campbell - Max Talbot
Zdeno Chara - Dougie Hamilton
Matt Bartkowski - Dennis Seidenberg
Torey Krug - Adam McQuaid
Starter: Niklas Svedberg // Backup: Tuukka Rask
Healthy Scratch: Brian Ferlin
Injured: Brett Connolly (finger), David Krejci (MCL), Kevan Miller (shoulder, out for season)