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JOHNSON IN NET TO BEGIN HOME-AND-HOME WITH BRUINS

by Jourdon LaBarber / Buffalo Sabres

Coming off their comeback effort in Montreal on Wednesday night, the Buffalo Sabres don't have to wait long for their chance at a third-straight win. They were right back at it on Thursday morning, preparing to go to battle with the Boston Bruins.

The Sabres will host the Bruins on Thursday night and then conclude their season series with their divisional rivals at TD Garden on Saturday.

"It almost has a little bit of a playoff feel to it," Sabres defenseman Josh Gorges said. "They're a team that's been a great team for the last however many years and a team that we're trying to catch to get into a playoff spot so it's a big two-game set for us."

The Sabres will employ the same lineup from their win on Tuesday, save for a change in net with Chad Johnson starting in place of Robin Lehner. Johnson previously beat Boston with a 29-save effort on Dec. 26.

That game took a third-period comeback, just as it took for the Sabres to beat the Canadiens in their last game. Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said that the team believed that, down a goal coming into the final period, they would still win if they came out and played the right way.

They did both of those things. The next step, Bylsma said, is to bring that right from puck drop to set the tone for the home-and-home series.

"I think we need to have that right from the start, yes," Bylsma said. "We've got a two-game set with them; we need to bring that urgency and desperation right off the start tonight."

The Bruins, meanwhile, are winless in their last two games after falling in overtime to Toronto on Tuesday. They've proven to be a formidable road opponent, however, as evident by their 15-5-3 road record and their 4-1 victory at First Niagara Center on Jan. 15.

"We have to be ready for a hard-fought game. Any time you play the Boston Bruins, it's never an easy game," Gorges said. "They're just a smart, veteran team and you have to earn everything you get. They're not going to give anything to you. So we've got to come prepared with that type of mentality."

Coverage on Thursday begins at 6:30 p.m. with Tops Sabres Gamenight on MSG-B and Sportsnet. The game can also be heard live on WGR 550.


EVANDER'S IMPACT
The line of Johan Larsson, Brian Gionta and Evander Kane generated a total of 12 shots on Tuesday night – four apiece – eventually resulting in Larsson's game-winning goal in the third period. When asked what made the line so successful in the offensive zone, Bylsma spoke highly of Kane's performance.

"Mostly Evander Kane on the forecheck, Evander Kane with his speed in the offensive zone," he said. "He was our best at it last night. We fell short in several other areas with guys not being able to do that and I think that's where that line was at its best."

With that line likely to stick together for a third-straight game against the Bruins, they'll have an opportunity to build on their strong performance as their chemistry continues to develop.


SHOWDOWN: KANE VS. GIONTA
They're linemates in the game, but come intermission Kane and Gionta will be pitted against one another for the second matchup in Sabres Showdown. Tyler Ennis defeated Zemgus Girgensons to advance to the semifinal round.

Tune into Thursday's broadcast on MSG during the first intermission to catch the matchup between Kane and Gionta, and check out the full bracket as well as Ennis and Girgensons' bout here.


PROJECTED LINEUP
88 Jamie McGinn – 90 Ryan O'Reilly – 23 Sam Reinhart
9 Evander Kane – 22 Johan Larsson – 12 Brian Gionta
28 Zemgus Girgensons – 15 Jack Eichel – 82 Marcus Foligno
44 Nicolas Deslauriers – 17 David Legwand – 26 Matt Moulson

4 Josh Gorges – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
47 Zach Bogosian – 3 Mark Pysyk
29 Jake McCabe – 46 Cody Franson

31 Chad Johnson
40 Robin Lehner

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