SABRES (13-18-2) at BRUINS (16-14-3)
TV: MSG-B, BELL TV, NESN
BOSTON – Clearly the Boston Bruins need to improve their offense if they're going to climb back into the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
The Bruins, who finished a 1-1-1 road trip, will start their game against the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday at TD Garden one point behind the New York Rangers for the second wild-card spot.
"It's tough. It's very easy to get down on yourself," Bruins defenseman Torey Krug said. "As a group it's easy to fall back on that, but if you have the right mentality, that mentality is to keep shooting and try to find ways to score dirty goals, you're going to come out of that. It's only a matter of time before the guys in this room, we have the names to do it, and the skill and work ethic to get out of it. I think we will for sure."
The Bruins rank 22nd with 2.42 goals scored per game. They have scored two or fewer goals in nine of their past 12 games and have a 3-6-3 record in that span. The Bruins should've received an offensive boost from the returns of defenseman Zdeno Chara, who also plays a net-front role on the power play, and center David Krejci from injury. But there was no uptick in scoring during their past two games with their full lineup.
Coach Claude Julien has been encouraged by the play of the line of Carl Soderberg centering wings Loui Eriksson and Chris Kelly. Julien is looking for more from his other lines or he might have to break up his best trio to spark the other units.
"Again, you know, do you guys watch the games? OK. So I'm going to say [Patrice] Bergeron's line in the last game did not have a good game," Julien said. "They didn't have many scoring chances. They weren't that good, they were good the game before. So you know there's some games they play well and they score. Some games they're not. And that's been the problem with our team is inconsistency in our game. So if you guys watch the game, you'll see those kinds of things.
"Certain lines, even though you say Bergeron, [Reilly] Smith and [Brad] Marchand are great players, but it doesn't mean their line is firing on all cylinders every game. And once we get all our lines being more consistent in that area, we won't be just saying that the goal scoring is coming from the Soderberg line. So we need a little bit more and at the same time, [Krejci] has just gotten back. So we hope that sooner than later we're going to get a little bit more depth in our scoring."
The Bruins aren't used to being on the outside of the playoff race looking in by this point of the season. It's an unfamiliar situation, but it's one Bergeron believes they can handle.
"Well we have to. I mean it's one of those things that I guess it's experience," Bergeron said. "You have to make sure you rely on that and make sure that we realize that adversity's been something that we've faced before. Even though it's different, I think we're equipped to face adversity and we all need to step up."
The Sabres, who lost 5-1 at home to the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday, did not hold a morning skate. Coach Ted Nolan revealed after the loss that forwards Patrick Kaleta and Matt Moulson would not travel to Boston because of illness. Nolan also classified defenseman Tyler Myers, who was injured against the Avalanche, as questionable to face the Bruins.
Defenseman Mark Pysyk and forward Tim Schaller were called up from the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League.
Here are the projected lineups:
Drew Stafford – Zemgus Girgensons – Tyler Ennis
Cody Hodgson – Brian Flynn – Brian Gionta
Johan Larsson – Mikhail Grigorenko – Nicolas Deslauriers
Marcus Foligno – Tim Schaller – Chris Stewart
Josh Gorges – Tyler Myers
Nikita Zadorov – Rasmus Ristolainen
Andrej Meszaros – Andre Benoit
Scratched: Mark Pysyk
Injured: Tyson Strachan (lower body), Cody McCormick (lower body), Torrey Mitchell (lower body), Mike Weber (knee), Patrick Kaleta (illness), Matt Moulson (illness)
Milan Lucic – David Krejci – Seth Griffith
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – Reilly Smith
Chris Kelly – Carl Soderberg – Loui Eriksson
Daniel Paille – Gregory Campbell – Craig Cunningham
Zdeno Chara – Torey Krug
Dennis Seidenberg – Dougie Hamilton
Matt Bartkowski – Kevan Miller
Scratched: Matt Fraser, Zach Trotman
Injured: Adam McQuaid (thumb)
Status update: There should be an update on Myers when it gets closer to game time. ... The Bruins are down to seven defensemen after they assigned Joe Morrow to Providence of the AHL. Bartkowski played Friday for the first time since Dec. 4.
Who's hot: Ristolainen has two points in his past two games. ... Kelly has one assist in each of the past three games.