After winning seven in a row, Boston have dropped their last two.
“I think the important thing here is we lost an overtime game and we lost a game [Tuesday] night but before that we had won seven in a row. We have to find a way to win hockey games again and get that good feeling that confidence that we had, not lose it basically,” Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien said yesterday.
“I think that guys still believe that this is a good team. We have to be ready to bounce back and it takes one game to get you back on track and tomorrow has to be that game.”
Entering tonight’s tilt with the eighth place Buffalo Sabres, the Bruins sit with a 38-20-8 record and 84 points.
The Sabres enter tonight’s match-up with a 32-26-8 record for 72 points. Buffalo hangs on to the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference by just a game in hand over the Carolina Hurricanes, who also have 72 points. The Sabres make up that game in hand tonight, and need a victory for the point lead over Carolina.
The Bruins are also looking to cement their playoff position, as Montreal is just three points back in the Northeast Division entering tonight. The Canadiens face off against the St. Louis Blues in St. Louis tonight.
Boston could also regain the No. 2 position with a victory tonight. The Capitals are off and even with tonight’s contest, the B’s still have a game in hand over Washington. Wandering Buffalo
|Buffalo Sabres' Andrej Sekera (44) controls the puck as he skates by Pittsburgh Penguins' Pascal Dupuis in the second period of the NHL hockey game, Tuesday, March 8, 2011, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic) |
Although they’re not as good away from home as the Bruins, who hold an NHL-best 22-8-4 road record, the Sabres have collected over half of their victories in opponents’ arenas.
Buffalo enters tonight’s game with an 18-11-5 road record for 41 of their 72 points.
This bodes well for the Sabres who tonight play the sixth game of their season-long seven game road trip.
Buffalo is 3-1-1 thus far on the trip with wins coming against the Rangers, Flyers and Wild. Their only two setbacks have come against Pittsburgh and Carolina.
It hasn’t been an easy ride for the Sabres though. Three of the five games have finished with one-goal differentials and two of them have gone to overtime.
Buffalo is 1-1 in overtime over the course of this trip, but boast a 12-8 overtime and shootout record this season, good for second in the NHL.
Boston enters tonight’s game second to last in the league in overtime and shootouts with a 2-8 record.
The Sabres conclude their seven-game road swing on Saturday in Toronto. B’s Power Play Struggles
Over the last few Bruins practices at Ristuccia Memorial Arena in Wilmington, Coach Julien has spent a good portion of time working on the power play.
Yesterday was no different.
The B’s took numerous power play shifts and coach Julien mixed up the personnel throughout the practice as Boston looks to find a cure for their special teams recent lack of production.
“I think what it is, again, is communicating to the guys that first of all we don’t want to be robotic on the power play. And down low we’ve got some guys that have skill and they need to be able to use that skill. Use their hockey sense to make the right plays and move around and they have to be comfortable doing that.” Julien said after the team’s practice yesterday.
“We worked on that a lot today and that’s why the power play was set up the way it was with just three penalty killers, so they could move around and see where those openings were and hopefully that will help.”
The Bruins enter tonight’s game ranked 19th in the league in power play, scoring on just 16.8 percent of their man-advantage opportunities.
In the B’s last seven games, the power play has gone 0-for-16.
Prior to the trading deadline, Boston acquired defenseman Tomas Kaberle from the Toronto Maple Leafs. Kaberle was lauded as the Bruins new “quarterback” on the power play.
Although the Bruins have only produced one man-advantage goal since his arrival, Julien says he sees an improvement in the power play since Kaberle has joined Boston on the blueline.
“We feel our power play at the top has done a lot better since Kaberle has come in. We’re creating some shots and we’re getting some puck movement out there. Now we’re trying to work on the low part of the power play where we feel we can create a little bit more down low,” Julien said.
“They’re obviously focusing on us up top, and at the same time we have to be a little hungrier around the net, jamming the net and collecting lose pucks.”
Tipping pucks in front of the net and crashing the goalie is also something the Bruins have worked on over the past few practices.
“We’re getting scoring chances but we’re not getting goals. And there’s a reason for that and sometimes it’s about getting a little hungrier down low, it’s about maybe being a little bit better on those lose pucks and those rebounds,” Julien said.
“It’s frustrating because we understand the importance of what a power play can do for your hockey team right now. But every team has their challenges and right now our challenge is our power play.” Bruins vs. Buffalo
While the Bruins hold an advantage in their overall record, the Sabres have bested Boston while going to head to head this season.
The Bruins are 2-2-1 against Buffalo while the Sabres have come out of the first five games of the season series with a 3-1-1 mark.
|Mark Recchi checks against Ryan Miller #30 of the Buffalo Sabres at the TD Garden on January 20, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images) |
Three of the first five games have ended in one-goal games. Neither team has recorded a shutout.
Twenty different B’s skaters have recorded a point against Buffalo with forward David Krejci
and defenseman Dennis Seidenberg
leading the way with four points. Fifteen of those 20 players are expected to skate in tonight’s contest.
Of the five games played between the two squads this season, Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas
has started three, while Tuukka Rask
got the nod in the other two.
Ryan Miller stood between the pipes for Buffalo in four of the games, while Jhonas Enroth got the start in the other.
Thomas enters today with an 8-9-3 lifetime record against Buffalo in 22 games. He also has 3.13 GAA and .897 SV%.
Miller has played 31 games against Boston is his career, collecting a 19-5-7 record, 2.61 GAA and a .914 SV%.
With slightly less to draw from, Rask has the best head-to-head numbers of the three netminders. In nine career starts against Buffalo, Rask enters tonight with a 4-3-0 record, a 2.28 GAA and .931 SV %.
Player Profile: Michael Ryder
While the 30-year-old forward may not be the center of attention when the Bruins take the ice, Michael Ryder has been a solid presence on Boston’s third line.
The six-foot, 186-pound winger has collected 17-19-36 totals through the 66 games thus far in the B’s season to go along with 20 PIM.
But it’s not the number of goals Ryder scores, it’s the time and manner in which he collects his tallies.
Ryder has netted five game winners for Boston this season and has scored a team-high eight power play goals.
The native of Bonavista, NL, Canada, is in his third year with Boston after spending four seasons with the Montreal Canadiens.
His best statistical season came in his first with Boston. In the 2008-09 campaign, Ryder collected 27-26-53 totals and a plus-28 rating. He also had 10 power play goals and seven game-winners that season.
In 536 career NHL-games, Ryder has 161-168-329 totals to go along with 237 penalty minutes.