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Game Day: Sabres vs. Bruins

by John Bishop / Boston Bruins
John Bishop is the beat writer for He covers the Black & Gold hoping to offer a positive look at the team, not only from the stands and the press box, but also from inside the locker room.
0:00 - A huge 3-1 win for Boston.

Late penalties cost Buffalo and Manny Fernandez was very good.

How about Chuck Kobasew?

And how about a share of first place for Boston?

Shots were 40-40.

18.0 - Rivet called for tripping.

1:24 - The B's have it deep. Buffalo can't get their goalie out.

2:04 - MacArthur in the box for a slash.

3:53 - Manny shuts the door on the Sabres toughest bid of the period.

5:11 - Another big hit for Lucic.

Buffalo Sabres defenseman Craig Rivet (52) checks Boston Bruins left wing Milan Lucic (17) in the third period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Nov. 8, 2008 in Boston. Boston won 3-1. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
5:59 - Boston now has 36 shots and Miller is the only thing keeping the Sabres in the game.

9:42 - Stuart in the box for Boston.

10:24 - Offsides Boston. Shots are 32-28, B's.

11:41 - Buffalo gets a break as a whistle blows a moment before a Bruins shove at the puck puts it in the goal. Booos from the home crowd.

12:16 - Mair and Lucic were separated. Looked like Luch wanted to go.

14:37 - Boston just ended as good a power play as you could have -- without scoring a goal. Lots of shots, lots of chances, lots of desperation by Buffalo. And a VERY LOUD building.

15:33 - Manny turns away a shorthanded bid.

17:10 - Gaustad in the box for Buf.

17:11 - Boston has quickly resumed the style that made them successful in the second.

19:31 - The Sabres controlled and quickly got into the Bruins zone.

20:00 - Start of the Third. More of the same, please.
0.00 - End of the second. Nothing to complain about here. An excellent all-around period for the Bruins who really turned up the heat in the middle stanza. Fernandez has been outstanding at times, and every Bruins line has made themselves dangerous. An early goal in the third could put this one away -- early.

8.5 - Kessel rips a wrister which nearly snuck through Miller. Phil has had an excellent two-way game.

1:43 - It's been all Boston in this period. Yes, Manny has had to make a few saves, but the Bruins have really controlled the play and their goaltender has looked very sharp.

5:18 - Aaron Ward was just thanked by the members of Unit 44, or the soldiers who received the $15,000 in tickets the defenseman donated to tonight's game. Ward gave them a salute from the bench.

6:06 - After a few initial bobbles, Fernandez has been very clean in terms of controlling his rebounds. He's got 21 saves, already.

8:37 - A clean save by Miller. Shots are (finally) 21-20, Boston.

8:44 - Man, Ryan Miller, who is really very dependable, is having trouble controlling his rebounds. He is fighting that puck.

Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller (30) looks up as the Boston Bruins celebrate a goal in the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Nov. 8, 2008 in Boston. Boston won 3-1. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
12:01 - Savard Scoooooooooooooooores. His sixth of the season. Kessel made it happen with another throw it on net kind of play. Miller blockered away his bid, Savvy picked up the rebound and deposited it. Kess gets an assist. Boston leads, 3-1.

13:50 - Lucic hits Stafford and sends him sprawling along the side boards.

15:23 - Fernandez makes a nice smothering save on a drive through traffic.

16:14 - Lucic in the box for interference.

17:13 - A veteran goal by a very smart player. When in doubt, put it on net. A lucky tip off a Sabres stick gives Chuck Kobasew a goal. 2-1, Boston. Thornton gets an assist.

19:39 - Aaaaaaaaaaaaand Manny has his first save of the session.

19:55 - Sturm wins the faceoff.

20:00 - Start of the Second Period. Let's see more what we saw in the second half of the first period, please.
0:00 - The story of the game is in the shot progression, with Buffalo having a big lead early and with Boston, slowly-but-surely, catching up. The first ends with a 1-1 score and with the Sabres leading in shots (slightly) 14-12.

1:52 - After a near miss by Sturm, Wideman and Kaleta are separated. Chippy.

2:24 - Wideman scores. From the point, Wideman had three Sabres as a screen and let fly. A new game, at 1-1. Assists to Yelle and Kobasew. Welcome back Chuck!

2:39 - A first baseman's scoop for Fernandez, who stops a bit of pinball action in front of his net.

4:31 - Miller's hardest save of the night, so far. Sturm skates into the zone and let's loose. Miller bobbles, but holds fast. Shots are 10-8, Buffalo.

Boston Bruins right wing Chuck Kobasew (12) gets tangled up with Buffalo Sabres defenseman Jaroslav Spacek (6), of Czech Republic, in the first period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Nov. 8, 2008 in Boston. Boston won 3-1. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
4:50 - Chuck Kobasew just had words with Maxim Afinogenov, who had already annoyed Sturm. Hmmmm.

5:31 - The B's have upped the intensity, with the Yelle line leading the way.

9:44 - A tic-tac-toe play leads to a Buffalo goal by Connolly. Not much Manny could do. 1-0, Sabres.

10:29 - A tough save by Fernandez, on Tallinder, from the point.

12:09 - The B's have picked up their attack. However, shots are still 6-3, Buffalo.

14:59 - Boston's first shot, on a breakaway, by Bergeron. Miller kicked the rebound out of harm's way.

18:18 - Sturm and Afinogenov had to be separated before the latest faceoff. Nothing came of it, but Marco generally doesn't get so angry.

18:58 - Manny's first save. I missed the shooter.

19:16 - Puck played with a high stick, faceoff in the Boston zone.

19:56 - Buffalo wins the draw and works the puck into the Boston zone.

20:00 - Start of First Period. Manny likes a few shots early, so maybe the Sabres will oblige -- and hit him right in the spoked-B several times in the opening stanza.

Bruins starters: Lucic, Savard, Kessel, Ference, Wideman, Ference
Sabres starters: Lydman, Connolly, Numminen, Pominville, Rivet, Miller

Let's switch to time on the clock...

6:45 p.m.
The Bruins Lines...

Lucic - Savard - Kessel
Axelsson - Bergeron - Ryder
Sturm - Krejci - Wheeler
Thornton - Yelle - Kobasew
Chara - Ward
Ference - Wideman
Sturm - Hunwick

Scratches: Petteri Nokelainen, Shane Hnidy

6:33 p.m.
Bruins goaltender Manny Fernandez led the Bruins out of the cave and is expected to start tonight. Fernandez’ last outing came five games ago on October 25 in a 5-4 victory over Atlanta. He was between the pipes when the Bruins and Sabres met earlier this year on October 21 in Buffalo. The Sabres prevailed 3-2 in a shootout.

Chuck Kobasew is on the ice and Petteri Nokelainen is not.

Ryan Miller led Buffalo out of the locker room.

5:54 p.m.
Pressbox Notes...
Tonight is Military Appreciation Night at the TD Banknorth Garden.
  • The Bruins will host 1,500 members of local military families through their “Seats for Soldiers” program- an initiative where fans purchase tickets that are donated to military members and their families.
  • Bruins defenseman Aaron Ward purchased $15,000 worth of tickets to the program this year, giving 300 servicemen and women and their families the opportunity to watch Saturday’s game.  “Unit 44” will be seated in Section 19.
  • The soldiers and their families will be honored throughout the game through photo montages on Garden HDX, Zamboni rides, and video messages while a select few will have the chance to shake hands with the team as they leave the locker room during intermissions.
  • The Bruins next four opponents have a combined 33-10-9 record as of Saturday, November 8.  After playing the 8-2-3 Sabres on Saturday, they will travel to Chicago to face the 6-3-3 Blackhawks on Wednesday, November 12, return to Boston to face the 8-1-2 Canadiens at home on Thursday, November 13 and travel to New York City to play the 11-4-1 Rangers on Saturday, November 15.
  • Boston is 5-1-0 in their last six contests and is 3-0-0 in their last three at home.
  • Sabres forward Thomas Vanek is the NHL’s leading goal scorer with 12 goals in 13 games.  Dating back to last season, Vanek has tallied 20 goals in his last 23 games.
  • The Sabres hosted Atlanta last night and dropped a 5-4 decision in overtime.

5:04 p.m.
Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller, right, keeps his eye on the puck under pressure from Boston Bruins' Stephane Yelle (18) during second period hockey action at HSBC Arena in Buffalo, N.Y., Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2008. (AP Photo/David Duprey)
After morning skate, Patrice Bergeron spoke about facing the Sabres.

“They have a lot of speed and skill on every line,” said Bergeron. “We’re going to have to be ready for that.

“The other thing is that they work hard and they never stop battling.

“Also, their transition (game) is very good,” he said.

The standings say the game is very important, as well. Boston is one point behind Buffalo and two points behind the Northeast Division leading Montreal Canadiens.

“We need to ready for a big game,” said the Bruins alternate captain. “If you look at the standings it’s a huge game.”

Standing in net for the Sabres could be their Drydenesque goalie, Ryan Miller.

“He’s a good goalie,” said Bergeron. “And we need to respect that, but at the same time we need to go out there and not worry about (him).

“We need to go out there and shoot, but I think traffic is going to be the main thing. We need some traffic in front of the net and make his job harder tonight (by) getting rebounds.”

Bergeron was asked to reflect on the young core of this team, which included Lucic, Krejci.

“They’re playing great,” he said. “Last year they showed us, at the end of the year, that they were a big part of the team.

“And now, with one more year of experience…they’re playing great hockey and giving us a chance to win every game.

“They always show up and with (Wheeler), it’s his first year, but he doesn’t look like a rookie at all,” said Bergeron.

2:57 p.m.

Some more from Coach Julien after the skate:
On if the confidence of the team is growing...
Bruins head coach Claude Julien. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
Yeah, I think it is growing and I think it’s important that it grows properly. Not overconfident for the wrong reasons. I think confidence is good to have but you still have to be hungry and want to get better.

On if he feels he has to guard against overconfidence...
You do. There’s no reason for us to be satisfied, there’s still quite a few teams ahead of us. There’s no reason to be satisfied. It’s a long year and things can change quickly. 

On the reasons for Buffalo having the most power plays in the NHL...
They’ve got a real quick hockey team and they use their speed to their advantage. A lot of times if you’re not in a good position, you have to slow them down and you either clutch grab or hold and you end up in the penalty box.

On what he takes out of the last game against Buffalo (3-2 shootout loss on 10/21)...
I think it was a real good game personally. I think we came out really strong and this was our second game in two nights and I thought we had good energy. We did a great job of competing that night. Once they got that goal, that first goal, they just seemed to get some life and they came at us. Unfortunately it was decided in a shootout.

On if Shane Hnidy will play tonight...
No, he’s not going to go tonight. I’m hoping that this will be his last game (out) and if everything goes well he should be on the ice here at the beginning of the week.

On how Matt Hunwick played Thursday night against Toronto...
I thought he was good. He jumped in on the play a few times. He moved the puck fairly well. Obviously we put him with some veteran D’s to help him feel more comfortable. For a guy that hasn’t played in a long time it’s not an easy situation to be in. He’s a young kid growing into his role and I thought he handled it well last game.

On if having two goaltenders makes life easier...
We knew right from the get-go that we had two good goaltenders. There’s never been a doubt in our mind about that. As I mentioned we’re going to keep taking advantage of it and that’s a position I think right now, with certain injuries, there’s some teams out there that wish they had our situation so we have to take advantage of it.

On Zdeno Chara playing better as of late than he had in the first few games...
You’re right. You’re absolutely right. His game has gotten better, like you said, not that it was bad, but we knew we could get even more out of (Zdeno Chara). Sometimes for guys throughout the season we’d love to have them at their best for 82 games but some get slower starts and some peak at the right time. I think right now you’re seeing Zdeno [Chara] really finding his game.

12:11 p.m.
Boston Bruins' Petteri Nokelainen, left, from Finland, pressures Calgary Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff, also from Finland, during second-period NHL hockey action in Calgary, Thursday, Oct. 30, 2008. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press,Jeff McIntosh)
It was an optional practice for the Bruins this morning, with Patrice Bergeron, Manny Fernandez, Matt Hunwick, Chuck Kobasew, Petteri Nokelainen and Blake Wheeler working through a session overseen by B’s assistant coach Doug Houda.

There were no clues given about tonight's lineup, aside from the fact that Shane Hnidy will again be spelled by Matt Hunwick.

Tim Thomas was on premises, as were Marc Savard, Zdeno Chara, Michael Ryder, but none of the above took part in the warm-up.

The assumption is that Thomas will be in goal (just like one would assume that Ryan Miller will be in goal for Buffalo), but stranger things have happened. Both teams have very capable

The real question for tonight is the status of Chuck Kobasew, who is beginning to suffer through practice with a hope to return to games soon.

The good natured, if intense, Kobasew, remains upbeat, but observers can tell that “Chuckie” is very, very excited to return to the lineup.

“I’ll find out, probably, after warm-ups,” said Kobasew. “But you always prepare like you are playing.

“And you know, once you find if you are in or you are out, you just go out and play – that’s it.

“You can’t turn the switch (off and) on, you just go out and play,” he said.

When asked if he expected to have Kobasew back on the ice, Bruins head coach Claude Julien said, “I hope so.

“That’s a decision for game-time,” added Julien. “We’ve got a team that is playing pretty well, but he basically feels good. So, later on, we’ll make that decision.

Coach Julien admitted that it’s a hard decision made harder because of the B’s current streak.

“It’s the easiest decision to make when your team is not going well," he said. "You try and change things and there is no hesitation there.

“When your team is going well, it becomes a hard decision to make.

“And If you put (Kobasew) in tonight, somebody has to sit out, and it’s probably a guy who deserves to be in the lineup,” he said.

With a short laugh, Coach Julien said that was not an unenviable position to be in, however.

“I’m excited,” said Kobasew when asked if he could stand the wait. “It’s been a while.

“It’s fun (just) to be back on the ice, but I really want to be playing.

“Games are what we all enjoy – that’s the fun part about out jobs – so I’m looking forward to it,” he said.

Buffalo update
The Sabres also had an optional, and there was no sign of Ryan Miller.

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