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Goalie showdown expected as Bruins visit Sabres

by Brian Hunter /

BRUINS (9-8-4) at SABRES (12-5-1)

Last 10 – Boston 4-3-3; Buffalo 6-4-0

Season series –
Second of six meetings between these Northeast Division rivals. Boston received first-period power-play goals from Mark Recchi and Zdeno Chara and went on to a 4-2 victory at TD Garden on Nov. 7 with the backups in net for both teams. Tuukka Rask made 28 saves in a winning effort while Jhonas Enroth stopped 33 shots in his NHL debut for Buffalo.

Big story – Take nothing away from the Bruins for winning the initial offering in this series, but the game was lacking a certain flavor – namely, the battle between two of the League's elite goalies, Tim Thomas and Ryan Miller. That doesn’t figure to be the case this time around. Rask got the start for Boston at Atlanta on Thursday, indicating Thomas (tied for first in the NHL with three shutouts) will face Buffalo. Miller has started all but two games for the Sabres and is tied for the League lead in wins (12) while ranking second in goals-against average (1.97) and save percentage (.931).

Team scope:

Bruins – Four of Boston's last seven games have been decided in either overtime or the shootout. The Bruins were 0-3 in such affairs until Thursday night, when they gave up the tying goal late in regulation against Atlanta but left Philips Arena with a 4-3 victory courtesy of Patrice Bergeron’s goal in the shootout. It was also a positive start to a four-game road trip that continues with games in St. Louis and Minnesota.

''That goal at the end could have been a killer,'' Bruins coach Claude Julien said. ''But our guys decided that we weren't going to allow that to be the winner. Tuukka Rask came up big in the shootout.''

Sabres –
A three-game winning streak for Buffalo came to an end on home ice Wednesday night against Florida. The Sabres were a lot more competitive than the 6-2 final score would have you believe – it was a 3-2 game after Clarke MacArthur’s power-play goal with 5:43 remaining, but the Panthers scored three goals in a span of 62 seconds late, including an empty-netter.

"They just played boring until they got a lead and then they played more boring," Miller said. "You have to be willing to get it deep and just be boring yourself. It was one of those nights where everything we seem to do kind of went against us." 

Who's hot – Boston forward Michael Ryder scored twice against Atlanta and has three goals in as many games. Buffalo forward Thomas Vanek assisted on both goals against Florida and has a four-game points streak (one goal, four assists).

Injury report – Forward Milan Lucic (finger) returned for the Bruins on Thursday and they hope to have forward Marc Savard (foot) back as early as Monday.

The Sabres have been without defenseman Toni Lydman for the past 11 games and forward Mike Grier for the last three as they recover from groin injuries. Lydman could return against the Bruins. Forwards Derek Roy and Tim Connolly were held out of practice Thursday for "maintenance" reasons, but coach Lindy Ruff said he expected both to be in the lineup Friday.

Stat pack –
Normally a very responsible team with the puck, Buffalo committed a season-high 25 giveaways in its last game against Florida.

"A lot of the mistakes are on our own shoulders," Ruff said. "We turned some pucks over, and had some guys who didn't stop and compete on pucks."

Puck drop – With the Olympics coming up in February and the condensed schedule in the NHL this season, back-to-back situations are a frequent fact of life for all 30 teams. While the Bruins enter on the back end of one, the Sabres must turn around and travel to Ottawa for another game Saturday.

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