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GAME: Buffalo Sabres (4-2-0) at Boston Bruins (3-4-0).

TIME: Thursday, 7 p.m. EDT.

Off to their best start in a decade, the Buffalo Sabres look to continue their winning ways when they face the Boston Bruins at FleetCenter.

Despite his team's impressive start, Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff knows there are many hurdles to clear before getting too excited.

"We're trying to build off the start, but every game is a different challenge," said Ruff, whose team's 4-2-0 record after six games is its best since the 1984-85 season.

"You have to understand that the minute you let up for a second, you lose a game in this league. So there's no letting up."

Since their last-minute 3-2 loss to Florida on Saturday, the Sabres have had some time off to prepare for Thursday.

"You put those six games away and you focus on the areas where we need improvement," Ruff said after Tuesday's practice. "We have to just try and drive home the points that have made us effective."

One area where the Sabres need improvement is on their of a power play. The unit is the league's fifth-worst, converting on just over nine percent of its opportunities.

In their 4-3 shootout win against Tampa Bay on Oct. 12, the Sabres had a two-man advantage for the final 1:48 of overtime, but registered only one shot on net.

"Our even-strength play has been good, but our special teams play has to improve," Ruff said. "If that does, it'll make us dangerous every night."

Boston captain Joe Thornton, who has missed three games since straining his back on Oct. 10, hopes to be back in the lineup Thursday.

"Yesterday felt great, today even better," Thornton said after Wednesday's practice.

The Bruins have played only home game - a 2-1 loss to the Canadiens in the season opener on Oct. 5. They ended a six-game road trip with a 4-3 loss at Montreal on Tuesday, ending the trip at 3-3.

"Home or away, it doesn't matter, the game's still the game," Bruins forward Tom Fitzgerald said. "Other than the last change, there's no difference. Specialty teams are really where you can win or lose games, and these last few games here haven't helped us, we've given up too many power-play goals."

The Bruins, 0-4 this season against Northeast Division opponents, have allowed four power-play goals in their last two games.

STANDINGS: Sabres - 8 points, 3rd place, 2 PB, Northeast Division. Bruins - 6 points, 5th place, 4 PB, Northeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Sabres - Daniel Briere, 5 goals and 7 points; Thomas Vanek, 4 assists; Jochen Hecht, 12 PIM. Bruins - Glen Murray, 4 goals and 8 points; Sergei Samsonov, 5 assists; Hal Gill, 21 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Oct. 17): Sabres - Power play: 9.3 percent (4-for-43), 26th in NHL. Penalty killing: 80.8 percent (21-for-26), tied for 21st. Bruins - Power play: 16.3 percent (7 for 43), 17th. Penalty killing: percent 81.3 percent (39 for 48), tied for 19th.

GOALTENDERS: Sabres - Ryan Miller (4-2-0, 0 SO, 2.93 GAA); Martin Biron (no appearances). Bruins - Andrew Raycroft (2-4-0, 3.25); Hannu Toivonen (1-0-0, 4.77).

SEASON SERIES: Sabres, 1-0.

LAST MEETING: Oct. 7; Sabres, 4-1. At Buffalo, N.Y., J.P. Dumont, Mike Grier, Ales Kotalik and Maxim Afinogenov scored for Sabres, who improved to 2-0 for the first time since the 2002-03 season.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Sabres - 1-2-0 on the road; Bruins - 0-1-0 at home.

Associated Press
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