GAME: Boston Bruins (33-16-14-7) at Buffalo Sabres (31-31-6-1).
TIME: Thursday, 7 p.m. EST.
Right up to the trade deadline, the Buffalo Sabres were unsure if they were
going to be buyers or sellers.
It appears the decision they made was the right one.
The Sabres will try to close the gap on eighth place in the Eastern
Conference when they take on the visiting Boston Bruins.
Buffalo suddenly finds itself just five points behind the New York Islanders
in the race for the final postseason berth in the East with 13 games to play.
The Sabres have won three of four, including a 6-0 victory over Washington on
"Inside the dressing room and in the hockey department, we believe very
strongly that we're still in this thing, as evidenced by the trades," general
manager Darcy Regier told The Buffalo News. "We could have very easily sold.
We believe we can make it."
They can as long as the Islanders continue their free fall. Once challenging
Montreal for seventh place, the Islanders are winless in five (0-2-1-2) since a
4-2 victory in Buffalo on Feb. 27.
New York's slide had to play a big role in Buffalo's decision to take
Miroslav Satan off the trading block. The Sabres decided to keep their leading
goal scorer and then went out and traded for veteran forward Mike Grier and
veteran defensemen Jeff Jillson and Brad Brown just before the deadline.
The moves paid immediate dividends Wednesday as Grier finished with a goal
and two assists, while Jillson and Brown had a combined plus-5 rating and one
assist in their Buffalo debuts.
Grier, who didn't have more than two points in 67 games this season with
Washington, clicked immediately with new linemates Jochen Hecht and Chris Drury
as the line accounted for three goals and five assists.
The Bruins are unbeaten in three (2-0-1) games, and have just one loss in
their last five (3-1-1).
Joe Thornton has five goals in four games, including two in Boston's 3-2 win
over Nashville on Tuesday, which kept the Bruins one point behind Northeast
Division co-leaders Ottawa and Toronto.
"I thought he played one of his best games of the year tonight," Bruins
coach Mike Sullivan said of Thornton, who has 17 multipoint games this season.
"Certainly, with that type of effort and that type of commitment that he
showed to the rest of our team I think speaks volumes about how he's grown as a
player. That's the type of player I think he wants to be, and we want him to be
down the stretch here."
STANDINGS: Bruins - 87 points, 3rd place, 1 PB, Northeast Division. Sabres -
69 points, 5th place, 19 PB, Northeast Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Bruins - Glen Murray, 28 goals; Thornton, 46 assists and 67
points; Doug Doull, 117 PIM. Sabres - Satan, 26 goals; Daniel Briere, 29
assists and 52 points; Andrew Peters, 119 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through March 9): Bruins - Power play: 16.4 percent (41 for
250), 13th (tied) in NHL. Penalty killing: 83.3 percent (235 for 282), 21st.
Sabres - Power play: 15.9 percent (47 for 296), 16th. Penalty killing: 84.6
percent (248 for 293), 10th.
GOALTENDERS: Bruins - Andrew Raycroft (23-16-8, 3 SO, 1.99 GAA); Felix
Potvin (10-7-6, 4, 2.57). Sabres - Martin Biron (20-14-4, 1, 2.64); Mika
Noronen (11-15-2, 2, 2.47).
SEASON SERIES: Bruins, 2-1.
LAST MEETING: Feb. 5; Bruins, 6-2. At Buffalo, Thornton had a goal and
assist, and recorded his 400th career point. P.J. Axelsson added a goal and two
assists for Boston.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Bruins - 19-7-6-5 on the road; Sabres - 18-12-4-1 at