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Bruins face Sabres, hope to firm up hold on East berth

by Brian Hunter
SABRES (41-23-10) at BRUINS (34-28-12)

Last 10: Buffalo 6-3-1; Boston 5-4-1

Season series:
Fifth of six meetings this season between Northeast Division rivals. Boston has won three of the first four matchups, including two of the three played in Buffalo. Tuukka Rask has been the Bruins' goaltender in all four games. Daniel Paille and Milan Lucic each have a pair of goals to pace their attack, while Derek Roy leads the Sabres with two goals.

Big story:
At the moment it appears to be Montreal, Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta and the New York Rangers all contending for the final three Eastern Conference playoff berths. The Bruins have the most games remaining of any of those teams, with eight, and since they start Monday already in the top eight they are in full control of their destiny. The Sabres have clinched a playoff spot but are still fighting for the division title and the No. 2 seed.

Team Scope:

Sabres: After losing to Ottawa and missing a chance to clinch on Friday, Buffalo didn't leave anything to doubt the following night against Tampa Bay. Scoring three times in each of the first two periods, the Sabres went on to rout the Lightning, 7-1, with Roy recording his fourth career hat trick. They opened up a five-point lead on the Senators in the Northeast with two games in hand.

"The great thing about this game is you can go back and redeem yourself the next night," Roy told the Buffalo News. "I thought we did that."

Bruins: As much as Boston has struggled at TD Garden since the new year began, it was extra encouraging to see the Bruins respond on Saturday afternoon in a huge game against Calgary. The Flames came in even more desperate for points, sitting ninth in the Western Conference standings, but they didn't show it on the ice. The Bruins scored three power-play goals en route to a 5-0 victory.

"It felt actually good," said David Krejci, who scored one power-play goal and set up another by Zdeno Chara. "Our PP was struggling. Today, I think we came out pretty strong. To get three important goals, I feel pretty happy about that."

Who's hot:
Roy finished Saturday's game with four points and has seven in the last four games for the Sabres. Jason Pominville has two goals and four assists during a four-game points streak. Paul Gaustad has goals in consecutive games. Jochen Hecht has four goals in five games.

Krejci has two goals and four assists during a three-game points streak for the Bruins. Chara has two goals and two assists during a three-game points streak. Patrice Bergeron has a goal and three assists during a three-game points streak. Mark Recchi has goals in consecutive games.

Injury report:
Buffalo forwards Thomas Vanek (lower body), Tim Connolly (foot), Patrick Kaleta (upper body) and Raffi Torres (hand/wrist) are all day-to-day. It appears as though Vanek and Connolly have the best shots at dressing Monday.

Boston defenseman Andrew Ference is day-to-day with a groin injury. Forward Marc Savard is out indefinitely, suffering from post-concussion symptoms. He appeared at TD Garden for a press conference prior to Saturday's game and visited with his teammates.

"I think it's big for him to come down and see us," Rask said. "You know, get the energy from us. I think it was hard for him to stay home and not talk to anybody because we were on the road for a while there. It's good to have him back and hopefully we can help him to get through this."

Stat pack:
Backup goalie Patrick Lalime was the beneficiary of the Sabres' offensive outburst Saturday, becoming the 66th goalie in NHL history to win 200 games. Lalime has played for Pittsburgh, Ottawa, St. Louis, Chicago and Buffalo in his 11-season career.

"It's pretty nice to get there," Lalime said. "It was a hard one to get. It just means I'm old, probably."

Puck drop: Buffalo will pay another visit to Boston on April 8 to conclude the regular-season series. If the Bruins play well down the stretch, though, it's not inconceivable they could find themselves facing each other in the first round of the playoffs.

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