The Boston Bruins (22-7-9, 53 points) return from the Christmas break tonight as they visit the Buffalo Sabres (17-14-7, 41 points) in the first half of a home-and-home set. The sides will conclude the weekend series on Sunday night at TD Garden. It’s the second meeting of the season between the teams, who met at TD Garden on November 21st. The Bruins took that game by a final score of 3-2.
Puck drop is at 7:00 pm live on NESN and 98.5 The Sports Hub.
A Long Time Coming
The Bruins used a four goal first period to propel them to a convincing victory over the Washington Capitals on Monday night. It’s a game that was a long time coming both against the Capitals and in general.
“Tonight’s game going into the break has been a long time coming,” Brad Marchand told the club’s official website after the win. “We’ve been losing games we deserve to win and just seemed like every bounce has been going against us, every mistake we make was kind of ending up in our net. That’s good to have the bounces go the other way tonight and good feeling going into the break.”
Much had been made about the Bruins struggles leading into the victory against the Capitals. A look at the bigger picture shows that even after a tough stretch, the Bruins are still in a very good position as they approach the midway point of the season.
“We’re not even halfway through the year, we’re at 53 points and sitting at a pretty good spot,” Marchand continued. “I think a lot of people are making a lot of noise outside of the room that was blowing it a bit out of proportion…we’re not panicking here. We’re going to take the time to regroup. It’s always a fun time of year to spend with your family and friends…we’ll enjoy it for sure.”
Krug To IR
Monday’s win wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for the Bruins. It came at a cost, a pretty big one too. The club has placed defenseman Torey Krug on IR and recalled Steven Kampfer from AHL Providence on an emergency basis. Krug’s upper-body injury was sustained on a hit from Tom Wilson.
Krug missed roughly two weeks of action earlier this season with an injury. Krug was hurt in the Bruins game against the Flyers on November 10th and did not return until the 23rd against the Wild. He’s appeared in 33 games this season, registering 26 points (5 g, 21 a).
According to coach Bruce Cassidy, Krug is out at least through the Bruins New Year’s Eve game against the New Jersey Devils. He could miss even more time.
Kampfer has played in four NHL games, failing to register a point while collecting two penalty minutes and a +2 rating. He’s also skated in six AHL games with Providence, scoring four points (0 g, 4 a). Kampfer was recently suspended by the AHL two games for an interference incident in a game at Hartford on December 21st.
Chara Returns, McAvoy Out
Torey Krug isn’t the only Bruins regular defenseman dealing with injury issues right now. The club played Monday night without captain Zdeno Chara. Chara underwent a procedure to remove screws and plates from the jaw injury he sustained during the Stanley Cup Final. Playing tonight was the plan all along for Chara.
“We tried to plan this and obviously we tried to make that decision ahead of time. That’s what it is. We tried to take advantage of that little break that we have coming up so it’s not too demanding on the body. It worked out to be the last game before the Christmas break,” Chara said of the procedure last Sunday.
McAvoy, like Krug, was injured in the Bruins win against the Capitals. Cassidy called him “day-to-day” and said the plan is for him to skate tomorrow. McAvoy did not make the trip to Buffalo for the brief one-game road trip. Connor Clifton will replace him in the lineup, while Brandon Carlo slides into McAvoy’s normal spot alongside Chara.
Boston Bruins Lines
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk – David Krejci – Danton Heinen
Sean Kuraly – Charlie Coyle – Anders Bjork
Joakim Nordstrom – Par Lindholm – Chris Wagner
Zdeno Chara – Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk – Connor Clifton
John Moore – Steven Kampfer
Cassidy confirmed that Halak will get the start tonight. Tuukka Rask played three of the four games on the recent home stand and collected the win on Monday night. David Backes and Brett Ritchie are the healthy scratches tonight for the Bruins. Bruins lines are per the club’s official twitter account from morning skate in Buffalo.
Buffalo Sabres Lines
Victor Olofsson – Jack Eichel – Sam Reinhart
Jeff Skinner – Marcus Johansson – Jimmy Vesey
Zemgus Girgensons – Johan Larsson – Kyle Okposo
Conor Sheary – Rasmus Asplund – Evan Rodrigues
Jake McCabe – Rasmus Ristolainen
Brandon Montour – Henri Jokiharju
Rasmus Dahlin – Colin Miller
Sabres coach Ralph Krueger confirmed that defenseman Marco Scandella is out tonight. He is dealing with an illness. Johan Larsson is listed as day-to-day and will be a game-time decision, also per Krueger. Ullmark will start, per Heather Engel. Lineup subject to change.