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Game Day: Sabres vs. Bruins

by John Bishop / Boston Bruins
0:00 - Game over. The B's had a good late flurry, and good movement on with an extra attacker, but were unable to dent the twine.

1:13 - The B's net is open.

2:06 - A late power play for Boston. Total shots are 30-25, Bruins.

2:29 - Icing Buffalo. NESN just threw up the graphic saying that Boston has outshot Buff 10-2 in this period.

5:38 - This time it's Hecht that misses an open net. There's a break for Boston.

8:21 - Another good PK for the Sabres.

8:57 - Miller makes his latest save on a Chara shot from the point.

10:14 - Sekera took a stick to the midsection and had to be helped off.

10:32 - Lydman dumps Axelsson and goes to the box for interference. A break?

12:59 - A loose puck in the Sabres crease -- no B's sticks could get on it. Good "D" by the Sabres and Miller.

13:53 - Buffalo remains in control, but a consistent Bruins presence in their zone has the Sabres back on their heels. No shots are being generated, however.

15:44 - There is a real lull in the energy in the building...

16:53 - A near miss for Chuck Kobasew, who redirected a Chara shot, just wide.

18:45 - A key PK for Buff. Ward will not return to the game, per Bruins PR. This is also a sold out game.

20:00 - Start of the Third. Aaron Ward is not on the bench.
0:00 - End of the Second.

Okay, how about an early goal in the third. Boston will start the third stanza with a 1:11 PP off the Buffalo bench minor. And, of course, we all know that "two-goal leads are the worst lead in hockey."

Shots are 23-20, Sabres.

49.2 - The pressure didn't yield a goal, but the Sabres ended up with another too-many-men on the ice penalty. A late goal would be clutch, True Believers...

1:11 - Boston has had sustained pressure for much of the last four minutes, and it's capped off by Axelsson hitting the side of the goal.

6:54 - Buffalo scores. It was a heck of a (lucky) redirection goal by Pominville Gaustad. A simple shot on net and a chip shot from in front. Very few breaks are going Boston's way today.

10:09 - The energy line brings it. Shawn Thornton, took a pass high (from St. Pierre) and shot from between the circles. He beat Miller and has the B's back within one. That was Thornton's third of the season, with helpers to Marty and Shane Hnidy. Give a bit of credit to Vladimir Sobotka who was in front bothering the Sabres goalie, as well.

Just a great decision to put it on net with a lack of other options.

11:51 - Timmy pounces on a loose puck for a faceoff. A TV timeout might serve as a good time for Coach Julien to address his troops. Boston is not matching Buffalo's intensity.

12:20 - Hecht hits the post on a partial breakaway. Yeesh.

13:11 - A wide open Vanek misses on a breakaway -- a BIG break for Boston.

15:29 - Kobasew is in the box for hooking. Buffalo is 1/2 on the PP.

16:56 - Unfortunately, it's Ellis who picks up a rebound (off a shot by Kotalik) and deposits it behind Thomas for the Sabres third goal. It's 3-1, Buffalo. Shots are 13-12, Sabres, as well.

17:30 - Ellis takes out Wideman on an icing touch. Icing Buffalo, but Dennis could have been really hurt.

17:54 - The action is going back and forth like a tennis match.

19:41 - Boston got the puck deep...

20:00 - Start of the Second.
0:00 - The end of the First. Lots of hits by both teams in the last couple of minutes. The anger the B's felt has moved over to the Buffalo bench, as well. There could be some interesting moments in the second. It's 2-1, Sabres.

3:14 - Vanek in the box for interference. Thornton in the box for slashing. It's four-on-four for two-minutes.

4:03 - Mair tried to hit a couple of Bruins -- Hunwick, Wideman (?) -- and got the worst of both collisions.

5:14 - Hit number four for Lucic.

5:20 - The Bruins look very angry and they should be. A couple of early mistakes has put them behind the eight ball. But their effort since the second Buffalo goal has been nothing but outstanding (and downright exciting).

6:34 - Post PK, Boston flew into their PP formations on the run. Savard was waiting for a backdoor pass from Chara. The big man found him and Miller robbed Savvy, again.

7:42 - Wheeler is stopped on a shorthanded breakaway, but Buffalo is called for too many men. In 47-seconds Boston will have a Power Play.

8:22 - The refs must have thought Derek Roy was in the wrong, because after TIm made a save, there was a scrum and Roy looked to be throwing cross checks. Zee pounded him with several solid punches in the pile up.

8:56 - Yelle is in the box. Make up call? He didn't seem to like the call and neither did the crowd. Buff is 1/1 on the PP.

9:14 - Kessel scores. Lucic set up a screen after he drove to the net. Savard picked the point, waited and Buffalo seemed to expect a pass to Lucic, but it ended up on Kessel's stick. Goal. It's 2-1, Buffalo.

10:18 - Mair is in the box for Buffalo. Boston is on the man advantage for the first time. He made run at Aaron Ward and caught him high. Two-minutes for charging. It looked like Mair's attempt to up the hit count for Buffalo. It didn't work very well.

11:11 - This time Roy is taken out by Lucic. Luch has three hits by my count...

11:50 - Vanek leaves the ice after being hit by a puck (in the ankle) by his own teammate.

12:52 - A big hit by Lucic on Mair, who looked a little shocked...

14:52 - Tough start. Vanek in front, tipped a point shot past a Bruins defensemen and by Thomas. It's 2-0, Sabres. It will be interesting to see how the Black & Gold responds to some early adversity.

15:13 - Hunwick is in the box for tripping.

15:52 - TIm bounced back with a nice glove save on a shot from the point.

16:40 - Two Bruins defensemen seemed to have screened Tim on an initial shot -- and blocked it -- but in the scramble that followed, the puck found the back of the net. It's 1-0, Buffalo. Ellis gets the goal, his second of the season.

17:19 - It looks like the B's plan is to pound the Sabres into plowshares. Sobotka and St. Pierre are the latest.

18:36 - Miller looked to have stopped all three men on Marc Savard's line in succession. First it was Kessel, then it was Axelsson (might have been wide) and Savard. Savvy was stopped by Miller who was laying on the ice and picked the puck out of the air.

19:24 - Lucic and Kobasew threw two early hits for Boston, but Buffalo had the first shot of the game, which Tim Thomas corralled and held.

19:58 - Buffalo wins the draw.

20:00 - Start of the First. The place already looks full...

The Bruins are wearing their third jerseys.

Buffalo's Starters: Hecht, Mair, Kotalik, Spacek, Sekera, Miller
Boston Starters: Lucic, Yelle, Kobasew, Hunwick, Wideman, Thomas

Switching to time on the clock...

12:52 p.m.
I think I just saw Buffalo enforcer Andrew Peters up here on the press level...

12:47 p.m.
Today, Coach Julien talked some more about Buffalo's dangerous nature.

"That is the one thing that we talked about before the game," he said. "They are a desperate team and they certainly want to make the playoffs – and they are right there.

"Last time that they were here they got off to a pretty good start and we were caught off guard and were not as ready as we should have been.

"Hopefully that will be corrected tonight. I do not think that we can say much more about our situation and every team wanting to burst our bubble; we have to be ready for whoever we play."

The puck drops at 1:06 p.m.

12:38 p.m.
Here are the lines...
Axelsson - Savard - Kessel
Lucic - Yelle - Kobasew
Wheeler - Krejci - Ryder
Sobotka - St. Pierre - Thornton
Chara - Ward
Hunwick - Wideman
Stuart - Hnidy

Nokelainen, Ference, Lashoff

12:33 p.m.
Arguably, it's the two best goalies in the United Stats facing off today -- and quite possibly team USA's one two punch in the pipes next year.

Tim Thomas is in goal for Boston and Ryan Miller is in the barrel for Buffalo.

12:17 p.m.
Although Andrew Ference, Petteri Nokelainen and Matt Lashoff skated this morning, they will not be in the lineup. Obviously, Lashoff is a healthy scratch, but  the other two players are moving forward in their rehab.

"They are still doing well," said Claude Julien a few minutes ago. "Nokelainen and Ference are getting extremely close."

But with the Bruins playing so well, don't look for their numbers to be called anytime soon.

"That's always that luxury," said Julien. "You've got to be sure you don't rush a guy back when the team is going well."

Aaron Ward's injury situation was a case in point.

"We did that, especially the second time around with Aaron Ward," said the Bruins head coach. "It wasn't about rushing him, but we saw the consequences [the first time].

"He felt ready, but sometimes giving guys a little extra time, is not a bad thing."

Ference is making excellent progress, however.

"If anything, he is ahead of schedule," said Julien of the defenseman. "Sometimes breaking a bone is sometimes better than spraining. It heals a lot quicker and it heals a lot better. He is feeling a lot better right now.

"I talked to him after practice yesterday and he really feels that he is getting pretty close and he felt comfortable. He made sure he was pushing in practice and battled with it a little bit."

With Nokelainen, it's just about hitting and heing hit.

"Nokelainen just had his first day with contact yesterday and we want to make sure that he gets a few practices under his belt before we move forward," said Julien. "It is the same thing with his injury. I think he needs to be in battle drills more anyways, just for the sake of his injury.

"Conditioning wise, he has been skating for a while and we have been pushing him pretty hard.

"But he has to get into those battle drills a little bit more and once he feels comfortable, we can move forward with him as well," he said.

12:11 p.m.
Press Box Notes
The Bruins enter today’s matchup winners of their last 14 at home (14-1-1 at home this season).  During these 14 games, the B’s have averaged 5.07 goals per contest and have outscored their opponents 71-32. Their last loss at home came on October 23 against Toronto, the only team to have defeated the Bruins in regulation at the TD Banknorth Garden this season.

Other stories...
  • The Bruins have won 10 straight overall and 15 of their last 16. Their current 10-game run is the longest streak of its kind in the NHL this season and the club’s longest consecutive win streak since a 10-gamer from March 9 through March 28, 1973. It is tied for the fourth longest in team history behind streaks of 14, 13 and 11 games.
  • The team is wearing their Reebok Third Jersey System today for the fifth of 16 times this year. Goaltender Manny Fernandez has been the goaltender the previous four times the team has worn the jersey and is 4-0-0 in those four starts (11/28, 11/29, 12/13, 12/20).
  • David Krejci has a 10-game point streak in progress, with 6-11-17 totals over that span. Two Bruins have four-game streaks in progress: Marc Savard has a four game assist/point streak with 2-6-8 totals and Dennis Wideman, has a four game assist/point streak with 1-6-7 totals.
  • Today’s matchup is game two of a six-game homestand for Boston. The Bruins have 13 games in January, 10 of which are at home. This is the opposite of Buffalo’s schedule, who plays 13 games in January, 10 of which are on the road.
  • Four Bruins own the top four plus/minus ratings in the NHL, while seven B’s rank in the top 11. Dennis Wideman leads all skaters with a +26, Marc Savard is second with a +25, Blake Wheeler is third in the league and tops among rookies with a +23, and David Krejci ranks fourth with a +22. Meanwhile, Zdeno Chara is tied for seventh (+18) and Milan Lucic and Michael Ryder are tied for 11th (+17).
  • The Sabres are 13-1-1 this season when scoring four or more goals in a game.
  • Thomas Vanek is third in the league in goals scored with 25, two off the league pace set by Philadelphia’s Jeff Carter who has 27.

11:10 a.m.

Both Boston and Buffalo are in the building and the players are preparing for this afternoon's tilt.

"They are a good team," said Mark Stuart of Buffalo. "They have a lot of talent and a lot of those guys have been playing together for awhile, so they are always tough.

"And we've had some tough games, already, with them this season."

Chuck Kobasew agreed and said,"They've played us well this year and it's going to be a tough game, a division game and those games are always fun.

"[Buffalo] has a lot of firepower up front...they are a good skating team and they like the transition game, so we've got to be sharp in all areas."

Of the current win streak, Stuart said little. He explained that the B's continue to only think of the one game in front of them.

"I don't think many guys [think of streaks]," he said. "I know I don't.

"I pretty much think about who we are playing next game and that's it.

"You, obviously, hear a lot about it -- people tend to talk about that stuff a lot -- which is fine. And it's good that we are on a roll, but once you start concentrating on streaks, you get yourself in trouble," said Stuart.

Kobasew explained that nothing in the past matters. The here and now matters.

"I think that's the mentality we've had all year," he said. "Once the game is over, you take what you need from it, and you try to improve and then you prepare for the team you are playing next.

"Every team does different things, so we better prepare for Buffalo, now."

10:30 a.m.
There was no pregame skate today...

There was ice availability and, no doubt, some of the B's and Sabres used that time to get in a skate.

That said, Coach Julien's press availability is around 11:50.

10:09 a.m.

Nothing is ever easy -- even if you are the top team in the NHL.

Following two games with the defending Eastern Conference playoff champs, a home and home series with Pittsburgh, the Boston Bruins are looking down the barrel of a home stand that brings Buffalo, Minnesota, Ottawa, Carolina and Montreal into TD Banknorth Garden.

With first place in the league on the line, Boston will need to continue their torrid home pace (14-1-1) in order to keep themselves in the top spot of the NHL.

However, the Bruins have consistently said that they are focusing on one game at a time, and the Black & Gold will have to be sharp against the blue and gold of the Sabres.

"They've been fighting for a playoff spot," said Claude Julien in his post practice press availability. "And they've played us pretty well, this year."

How so?

"They are a team that makes it pretty hard for you to break out of your own end," said the Bruins boss. "They are very aggressive.

"They'll pinch the walls, so anything you are in along the walls, you are going to be in a battle. I think they are very aggressive on their forecheck approach, but even in the D zone, they collapse a lot.

"They have good goaltending and they are probably a team right now that feels, and rightfully so, that they should be in a higher [in the playoff] mix than the bottom spots," he said.

So that makes the Sabres dangerous.

"As some point they are going to find their groove and you just hope it's not against your team," he said.
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