BRUINS (12-7-0) at SABRES (12-8-0)
TV: NESN (HD), MSG-B
Boston 9-1-0; Buffalo 6-4-0
Second of six meetings between these Northeast Division rivals. The Bruins scored a 6-2 win at TD Garden on Nov. 12 in a game that was best remembered for Milan Lucic
's hit on Ryan Miller
when the Buffalo goalie came out of his net to compete for a loose puck. Miller later left the game, was diagnosed with a concussion, and hasn't played since. Lucic had a hearing with the NHL regarding the play, but was not suspended.
While the return of Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh garnered the lion's share of attention League-wide on Monday, the Bruins quietly went about extending the NHL's longest win streak this season to nine. In a game originally set to be nationally televised before Versus switched to the Penguins-Islanders broadcast, Tim Thomas
recorded his second consecutive shutout to make an Andrew Ference
first-period goal hold up against Montreal.
Continuing a perfect month of November and seemingly clicking on all cylinders, Boston paid back Montreal for a home-and-home sweep suffered at the hands of the Canadiens at the end of October. That proved to be rock bottom for the Bruins, who haven't lost since. They racked up 42 goals during the first eight games of their winning streak, but Carey Price limited them to just Ference's score with 4:19 left in the first on Monday. That was enough for Thomas, who stopped 33 shots and extended his shutout streak to 133 minutes, 4 seconds.
"I have felt good the last couple of days," Thomas said. "I don't know why I'm just seeing the play well and reading what the other team's options are. Sometimes as a goalie, you get stuck in a puck focus so when a guy makes a pass you get caught on your heels. Right now I've just got a good feeling that I'm in a good position for the shot, but at the same time, my feet aren't locked in so I can move."
During Miller's absence, Buffalo has split four games -- however, both the victories came on the road while the Sabres have lost their last two at First Niagara Center, where they're 5-6-0 for the season. Improving their home record doesn't figure to get any easier with the additional loss of defenseman Tyler Myers
for the next month due to a broken wrist that required surgery. Myers was recently a healthy scratch for a game, but then came back to score twice in a loss to New Jersey before getting hurt in Saturday's 4-2 defeat at the hands of Phoenix.
"It's important that we each try and step up a little bit and fill that void. And there's also a real good young call-up with T.J. (Brennan) here," fellow defenseman Robyn Regehr
said. "I know he's really looking forward to getting in the lineup and helping us out as well."
Ference has goals in back-to-back games for the Bruins. Chris Kelly
assisted on Monday's tally, giving him 4 goals and 3 assists in the last five games. Thomas is now tied for the League lead with 3 shutouts.
In addition to Miller and Myers, sidelined for Buffalo are forwards Jochen Hecht
(concussion), Tyler Ennis
(ankle) and Cody McCormick
(upper body) and defenseman Mike Weber
Ference has a goal streak going for the first time in his 657-game NHL career. His season high for goals is 4, reached on four different occasions. … The Sabres are second in the League with a 90.3-percent success rate killing penalties.
Boston has won 10 straight as recently as the 2008-09 season, while the franchise record was established back in 1929-30 with a 14-game streak. Right now, though, the players' attention is simply on continuing to play well each night.
"We're not focusing on [the streak]," Thomas said. "We've done a good job of settling it down to one game at a time and staying in the here and now. It's mentioned every once in a while to keep it going, but that's it. I think that's the key."