The Boston Bruins (13-3-5, 31 points) return home to TD Garden to take on the Buffalo Sabres (10-8-3, 23 points) for the first time this season.
The Bruins lines will get a different look tonight head coach Bruce Cassidy told the media Thursday morning that he “fully expects” top center Patrice Bergeron to return to action after missing the last two games.
The two sides will meet again for a home-and-home set next month that starts December 27th in Buffalo and ends on the 29th back in Boston. The series finale goes on March 13th in Buffalo.
Puck drop is at 7:00 pm on NESN.
Bergeron did travel to New Jersey and indicated he felt good enough to play at New Jersey Tuesday but the Bruins are expressing extreme caution with their top center and best two-way forward.
Unfortunately, while the Bruins gain a forward, they will lose another as Cassidy told the media Thursday morning that Brett Ritchie’s infection has flared up again and he will miss another game.
The Bruins will not get puck-moving defenseman Torey Krug back tonight but the veteran defenseman is closing in on a Saturday night return against the Minnesota Wild.
Behind The Numbers
The Bruins have had a lot of success against the Sabres, specifically this decade. The Bruins are 33-21-0 against the Sabres since 2010, a winning percentage of 61.4%. The Bruins went 3-1-0 in the series last season, averaging 2.80 goals per game while surrendering just 1.80. They split the two meetings at TD Garden, while the Bruins swept the Sabres in a pair of road games.
The Sabres won the first meeting at TD Garden last year by a final score of 4-2, but the Bruins got their revenge with a January 5th victory on home ice. The final score of that victory was 2-1 in regulation time. The Bruins also claimed a 3-2 overtime victory in the series, winning on December 29th in Buffalo.
Tuukka Rask made 31 saves in the Bruins home victory, while David Backes had the game-winning goal. He scored it at 18:00 of the second period, following up a Chris Wagner goal in the first.
You’re Going The Wrong Way!
After a hot start to the season, the Sabres have really cooled off. They are 2-6-2 in their last ten games and have fallen out of a playoff spot. The Sabres trail the Philadelphia Flyers by one point for the final wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference. Riding a two-game losing streak, the Sabres have surrendered eight goals in those defeats.
They fell 4-1 on Sunday in Chicago, then suffered a 4-1 setback at home to the lowly Wild on Tuesday night. Ralph Krueger, in his first season as head coach, continues to search for answers.
“No firm decisions. You saw it in practice [Wednesday], we haven’t confirmed the lineup yet for [Thursday] or the lines or if [Marcus Johansson] is going to be a green light,” Krueger told the media when asked if his lineup will get shuffled after another loss.
The Sabres did get a boost at practice when assistant Don Granato returned to the ice. Granato has been gone since October 1st when he was hospitalized with severe pneumonia.
“The whole team, everybody got a real lift today with having Don join us.”
Boston Bruins Lines
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk – David Krejci – Charlie Coyle
Anders Bjork – Par Lindholm – Danton Heinen
Joakim Nordstrom – Sean Kuraly – Chris Wagner
Zdeno Chara – Charlie McAvoy
Brandon Carlo – Matt Grzelcyk
Urho Vaakanainen – Connor Clifton
Backes (upper-body), Zach Senyshyn (lower-body) and Karson Kuhlman (hairline tibia fracture) all remain out. Kuhlman was recently transferred to LTIR.
Buffalo Sabres Lines
Victor Olofsson – Jack Eichel – Sam Reinhart
Jeff Skinner – Evan Rodrigues – Conor Sheary
Jimmy Vesey – Casey Mittelstadt – Curtis Lazar
Zemgus Girgensons – Rasmus Asplund – John Gilmour
Jake McCabe – Rasmus Ristolainen
Rasmus Dahlin – Brandon Montour
Henri Jokiharju – Colin Miller
This is the first time Bruins fans will see Montour, Miller and Jokiharju on the Sabres defense. Jokiharju (Chicago) and Miller (Vegas) were acquired via trade during the summer. Montour was acquired from the Ducks at last season’s trade deadline. Lazar, formerly of the Senators and Flames, signed as a free agent on July 1st. Lineup subject to change.