With their three-day break for the holidays behind them, the Buffalo Sabres were back on the ice this morning readying for a challenging week of Atlantic Division matchups to close out 2019.
First up: a home-and-home set with the division-leading Boston Bruins, which begins tonight at KeyBank Center. The two rivals will meet again in Boston on Sunday.
The series has added intrigue when you consider the two teams' performance in their home buildings. The Sabres are on a five-game winning streak at KeyBank Center. At 11-3-3, their home points percentage (.735) ranks sixth in the NHL. The Bruins, at 13-1-8, rank second (.773).
That the Sabres have the first crack at home could be advantageous, given the fact that both teams are coming off three days of inactivity. Sabres coach Ralph Krueger detailed the challenges of returning from the holiday break during his morning session with the media.
"We have to gauge off the start," Krueger said. "Both teams are going to be attempting to play within their framework. I think the one that is better at doing that is going to come out here victorious. Boston, obviously, has got their framework nailed down. This is one of the premier teams in the league and we understand the challenge.
"I would say you get a bit of an edge at home. Of course, you don't have that same travel that they would've had last night and this morning. We need to try to use that to our advantage. But it's a challenge for both teams and all the teams doing this today, so I think it's always interesting to have abnormal situations. We're trying to look this one right in the eyes."
Video: PREGAME: Krueger
Johan Larsson and Kyle Okposo were both back on the ice with the team for its morning skate. Larsson missed the past two games with an upper-body injury; Okposo was absent for Monday's tilt in Ottawa due to an illness. Krueger said Larsson's status will be determined after warmups.
The Sabres will be without defenseman Marco Scandella, who did not skate this morning due to an illness.
Linus Ullmark is expected to start in net. He's stopped 98 of 105 shots (.933) in his career against Boston.
UPDATE (2 p.m.) - The Sabres have recalled forward Curtis Lazar from the Rochester Americans. Lazar has appeared in eight games for Buffalo this season, including each of the past two contests in Larsson's absence. He was assigned to Rochester after the game in Ottawa on Monday.
Scouting the Bruins
Boston went into the break on the heels of a 7-3 victory in Washington, improving the team's record to 2-0-3 in its last five games. Though they have slowed a bit from their red-hot start, the Bruins still sit atop the Atlantic Division and lead the Eastern Conference with a plus-30 goal differential.
The Sabres and Bruins last met in Boston on Nov. 21, a 3-2 Boston win at TD Garden. The Sabres outshot the Bruins that night, 38-27, but saw their push in the third period come short. Brad Marchand scored a pair of goals and Tuukka Rask made 36 saves.
It will be Jaroslav Halak in net for the Bruins tonight. They'll be without a couple of defensemen in Charlie McAvoy and Torey Krug due to injuries.
Numbers to know
• 24 - Victor Olofsson has 24 points in his last 23 games, including two-point performances in five of the team's last 11 games.
• 5 - Bruins forward David Pastrnak enters the contest on a five-game point streak in which he's tallied two goals and six assists. Pastrnak is tied with Marchand for fourth in the NHL with 54 points.
Coverage on MSG begins at 6:30 p.m., or you can listen to the game on WGR 550. Puck drop is scheduled for 7.