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Sabres-Bruins Preview @NHLdotcom

GAME: Buffalo Sabres (37-16-5) at Boston Bruins (25-25-10).

TIME: Saturday, 7 p.m. EST.

The Buffalo Sabres try to move closer to the top spot in the Northeast Division when they take on the Boston Bruins at the TD Banknorth Garden in the start of a home-and-home series.

Buffalo is 3-0-2 in its last five meetings against Boston, including a 3-0-0 mark this season.

With 79 points, the Sabres are fourth in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, three points ahead of fifth-place Philadelphia. Buffalo also trails division-leading Ottawa by just four points.

In the Sabres' 6-2 win over Toronto on Friday, Derek Roy recorded his first career hat trick and Ryan Miller made 21 saves on a night former great Pat LaFontaine's No. 16 jersey was raised to the rafters in a pre-game ceremony.

Roy, who entered with two career power-play goals, tallied twice with the man advantage.

"It feels great, but the team needed this win," said Roy, whose 10 goals this season eclipse the nine he scored as a rookie in 2003-04. "It was a big win for us."

Leading scorer Maxim Afinogenov added three assists to extend his point streak to six games. The right wing has three goals and eight assists over that span.

Miller improved to 15-4-2 with a 2.03 goals-against average since returning in mid-December from a fractured thumb that sidelined him for 23 games.

"Guys are definitely hungry to keep pushing forward," Miller said. "We just want to make our game consistent so we know we have it every night."

Miller is 3-0-0 with a 2.01 GAA against the Bruins in his career.

Boston snapped a three-game losing skid with a 3-2 win over Atlanta on Thursday. With the win, the Bruins have 60 points and are tied with the Thrashers for ninth place in the East, four points in back of Montreal.

Marco Sturm scored the game-winner on the power play with 2:41 remaining in the third period against the Thrashers to back goalie Andrew Raycroft's first victory since Jan. 7.

Raycroft, the 2003-04 Calder Trophy winner, lost his starting job to Tim Thomas after winning just seven of his first 24 starts this season.

Thomas had started the previous 16 games, going 8-4-4 with a 2.29 GAA.

"There was not as much pressure on me tonight knowing I hadn't played in a while," Raycroft said. "At the same time, if we had lost, we could have been eight points behind three teams (in the conference standings)."

Raycroft is 3-3-0 with a 2.53 GAA in six starts versus the Sabres in his career.

The teams will complete the home-and-home set Tuesday in Buffalo.

STANDINGS: Sabres - 79 points, 2nd place, 4 PB, Northeast Division. Bruins - 60 points, 4th place, 23 PB, Northeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Sabres - Ales Kotalik, 21 goals; Teppo Numminen and Afinogenov, 31 assists; Afinogenov, 46 points; Andrew Peters, 63 PIM. Bruins - Sturm, 22 goals; Patrice Bergeron, 31 assists and 50 points; Hal Gill, 86 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Sabres - Power play: 21.0 percent (74 for 353), 2nd (tied) in NHL. Penalty killing: 86.6 percent (266 for 307), 2nd. Bruins - Power play: 15.5 percent (49 for 317), 24th (tied). Penalty killing: 84.5 percent (300 for 355), 8th.

GOALTENDERS: Sabres - Miller (21-8-2, 2.27 GAA); Martin Biron (15-6-3, 2.98). Bruins - Thomas (8-4-4, 1 SO, 2.28); Raycroft (8-16-2, 3.60).

SEASON SERIES: Sabres, 3-0.

LAST MEETING: Nov. 19; Sabres, 3-2. At Boston, Mika Noronen made 20 saves and Henrik Tallinder scored with 4:21 left in the third period as Buffalo won its third in a row.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Sabres - 18-8-2 on the road; Bruins - 12-11-6 at home.

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