SABRES (9-3-1) at BRUINS (6-7-2)
Buffalo 7-3-0; Boston 4-4-2
These Northeast Division rivals meet for the first of six times this season. They split last season's series, though the Bruins picked up one additional point by virtue of a shootout loss. Thomas Vanek
of the Sabres led all scorers with five goals and Ryan Miller
went 3-2-0 in five starts against the Bruins.
The first five weeks of the season have seen the roles reversed, as Buffalo is currently first in the division while Boston struggles to play catch-up. The Sabres took a chance in the offseason by leaving their roster largely unchanged and figuring that a healthy Miller would make the biggest difference. So far, they appear to be right. Miller has a 9-2-1 record, is tied for the League lead with a .936 save percentage and has simply stolen some games.
It was a rare off night for Buffalo and its goaltender on Friday, as Philadelphia walked into HSBC Arena and claimed a 5-2 victory behind a pair of goals from tough guy Daniel Carcillo. Miller allowed four goals in a game for the first time this season, but still stopped 32 shots. With backup Patrick Lalime ailing, he'll probably start again in Boston. The Sabres' other option would be Jhonas Enroth
"We can be better," Buffalo forward Mike Grier said. "We have a good record and the League is going to watch how we do in these games. We have to show that we're willing not to back down."
Bruins: Patrice Bergeron
's goal with 52 seconds remaining against Montreal on Thursday prevented Boston from being shut out for the third consecutive game, and it also ensured the Bruins a point. However, they lost in the Canadiens in a shootout as their recent offensive woes continued.
"I don't think we are going to see too many backdoor tap-in's right now," forward Blake Wheeler said. "It's going to be 'dirty' goals that just bounce their way in, hit a skate, hit a face, whatever it takes. … It's going to take something, we know we have it in the locker room. It's going to turn around, we just got to do it now."
Buffalo forward Derek Roy
has two goals and an assist in the last two games. Forward Tim Connolly has two goals and six points in his last five games.
Boston's goaltending has been getting the job done -- Thomas has a .943 save percentage in his last four starts despite an 0-3-1 record, while backup Tuukka Rask
earned a shutout in his most recent appearance.
Lalime is battling a groin injury for the Sabres, as is defenseman Toni Lydman.
Forwards Milan Lucic
and Marc Savard
remain out long-term for the Bruins. Forward Byron Bitz missed the previous game due to a groin injury while forward David Krejci
is recovering from the swine flu.
Connolly enjoyed one milestone Friday when he earned his 300th NHL point, and he figures to experience another Saturday with his 500th NHL game.
Buffalo was soundly defeated 5-0 in its most recent road game on Long Island, but the Sabres won their first four away from home this season. Boston is simply searching for consistency in general -- the Bruins should be fresher in this game, but will it translate into two points?