It was a Wayne’s World-type day for the Boston Bruins and Buffalo Sabres today as their game-day skates were canceled due to COVID issues on both teams and this game up in the air until 1:32 PM ET.
A member of the Sabres ‘staff’ had a COVID issue and Bruins forward Sean Kuraly was placed on the NHL COVID Protocol List.
Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy told the media early Thursday evening that Greg McKegg will draw in for Kuraly and on defense, rookie Jack Achan will make his NHL debut filling in for the injured Jarred Tinordi.
The Bruins (15-8-4, 34 pts, .630 %) come into their first game of the season against the Sabres (6-18-4, 16 pts, .286 %) hoping to repeat their performance from the 2-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night. If they can do so, they should be able to earn another crucial two points in the tight East Division playoffs over the worst team in the league, the Sabres, who are 0-9-1 in their last ten games. However, if the Boston Bruins revert back to the lackadaisical effort they showed against the New York Rangers in a 4-0 loss last Saturday, they will be in trouble, even against the Sabres who are missing captain Jack Eichel and rookie sensation Dylan Cousins who are both out with upper-body injuries.
The Sabres fired their head coach Ralph Krueger Wednesday and replaced him with an interim in head coach Don Granato. The odds point towards a team really turning up their effort and intensity in their first game after a coach firing and the Sabres, if they have any pride left, won’t be an exception. These players are now playing for jobs for next season, whether in Buffalo or elsewhere and they want to show that the Sabres’ brutal season hasn’t been all on the players.
Jaro Halak (6-4-2, 2.15 GAA, .918 Save %), is expected to get the start tonight after rookie goalie Dan Vladar made 34 saves in his NHL debut Tuesday.
-This is the first of eight games against the Sabres for the Bruins. They play again Saturday in Buffalo (1 PM ET); March 27 in Boston; April 13 in Boston; April 22-23 in Buffalo, and April 29 and May 1 in Boston. Last season, the Bruins went 3-0-0 against their normal Atlantic Division rivals, winning two games at TD Garden and one at KeyBank Arena.
-Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask (undisclosed) is on the road trip and has been skating before and after practices and game-day skates. Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy told the media early Thursday evening that if all goes well for Rask at practice on Friday, he’ll likely return on Saturday.
-As for the rest of the Bruins’ MASH Unit, defenseman Tinordi (upper-body) joined his injured blue line brethren after taking a hard open-ice hit from Pittsburgh Penguins winger Brandon Tanev Tuesday. He will not play in Buffalo and is currently listed as day-to-day but that could become longer if he suffered a concussion. Fellow rearguard Jeremy Lauzon (broken hand) remains on injured reserve; Brandon Carlo (concussion) is “feeling better” but not with the team and fellow rearguard Kevan Miller (knee) has been skating back in Boston but will not join the team in Buffalo. Defenseman John Moore has a lower-body injury and is not on the trip with the team.
Forwards Zach Senyshyn and Ondrej Kase are both on injured reserve with upper-body injuries. Tuukka Rask is skating with the Bruins and hasn’t suffered any setbacks, so the chances of him playing against the Sabres later this week are decent, though not Thursday.
–Two Boston Bruins rookies made their NHL regular season debuts on Tuesday as goalie Dan Vladar made his first NHL start and forward Oskar Steen slotted in for Anders Bjork and skated on the right wing with Charlie Coyle and Nick Ritchie. As mentioned above, Vladar’s debut was a smashing success, and Steen held his own with two shots in 12 shifts and 9:13 TOI.
–The Bruins’ powerplay went 1-for-4 on Tuesday night. They are now 19-for-79 on the man advantage this season. They’re 12th in the NHL with a 24.1 percent success rate.
-The PK killed off all four Penguins powerplay attempts and remains the best in the NHL with an 89.3 percent success rate. They’ve killed off 83 of 93 powerplay attempts against them this season.
-As mentioned above the Sabres fired their head coach Wednesday and in a press conference announcing the firing, Sabres GM Kevyn Adams reminded the 30 other NHL GM’s that he is open for business on the NHL Trade market!
-If the Sabres players want to stay in Buffalo, Buffalo News columnist Mike Harrington says they better start playing with pride.
-Along with Eichel and Cousins, Sabres left winger Zemgus Girgensons is out indefinitely with a hamstring injury. On the blue line, defensemen Will Biorgen is out until mid-April with an arm injury, and Jake McCabe is gone for the season with a knee injury.
-The Sabres powerplay is ranked eighth in the NHL with a 26 percent success rate.
-The Sabres penalty kill has a 79.7 percent success rate and is ranked 14th in the NHL.
Boston Bruins Lines
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk – David Krejci – Craig Smith
Nick Ritchie – Charlie Coyle – Oskar Steen
Trent Frederic – Greg McKegg – Chris Wagner
Matt Grzelcyk – Charlie McAvoy
Jakub Zboril – Connor Clifton
Jack Achan – Steve Kampfer
Pittsburgh Penguins Lines