The Boston Bruins (14-10-2, 30 pts), will kick off the New Year Saturday when they host the Buffalo Sabres (10-17-5, 25 pts), in their first game since December 16 in a 1 PM ET (NESN, MSG-B) matinee at TD Garden.
The last time the Boston Bruins played, they were a depleted squad with seven regulars – including captain Patrice Bergeron and star winger Brad Marchand – in COVID protocol. Despite a valiant effort from a mish-mash of AHLers and NHLers, the Bruins lost 3-1 to the New York Islanders. Since then the Bruins have seen eight more players enter COVID Protocol and had six games postponed. If everyone can stay out of COVID protocol going forward though, the Boston Bruins will begin what will be their busiest stretch of the season thus far as after today, the Bruins will play a game every other day for the next two weeks with a back-to-back thrown in there January 12-13. Buckle up!
Boston Bruins Notes
– For only the second time this season, the Boston Bruins will have their full NHL roster on display Saturday but it will look a lot different. With “The Perfection Line’ of Marchand, Bergeron, and Pastrnak once again accounting for the bulk of offensive production and those below them on the forward lines seemingly stuck in quicksand, head coach Bruce Cassidy has shaken up the lines (see below). One of the key reasons for this shake-up is to get Bruins winger Taylor Hall, who has just five goals in 26 games, lighting the lamp more. Cassidy is hoping having Hall and the dynamic Pastrnak flanking Erik Haula in the middle can open up the game for Hall.
“They both have high-end speed, they can make plays at high-end speed so they’re gonna be able to keep up with one another,” said Cassidy. “They’re both very good off the rush. Pasta’s built his cycle game. He had to play with Bergy and March. Teams defend them differently over the years where they’re not gonna let them get an odd-man rush, so he’s had to build that in.
Taylor that’s still a work in progress, he’s got to learn to play in tight areas and off the shot, etcetera. That’s where those guys are gonna have to make sure they bear down, not just be a one-and-done line…at the end of the day, they will hopefully transition well, that’s part of it. Right now, it’s January, let’s see if we can get them going and then build in the other parts that need to be built in.”
-Former Sabres and Boston Bruins goalie Linus Ullmark is expected to get the nod between the pipes today. Ullmark is 7-5-0 with a 2.50 GAA and a .922 save percentage. Ullmark’s first game as a Bruin came against his former team back on Oct. 22 when he made 35 saves in a 4-1 Bruins win.
Buffalo Sabres Notes
-The Sabres are 1-8-1 in their last 10 games against the Bruins; 3-6-1 on the road.
-Former Boston College star defenseman and North Reading native Casey Fitzgerald will play the team he cheered on growing up for the first time. Fitzgerald is the son of former Boston Bruins forward and New Jersey Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald.
-Former Boston Bruins goalie Malcolm Subban is expected to start for the Sabres. Subban is 1-1-0 with a .915 save percentage and a 2.50 goals-against average in two career games against the team that selected him 24th overall at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.
Boston Bruins Lines
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – Craig Smith
Taylor Hall – Erik Haula – David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk – Charlie Coyle – Nick Foligno
Trent Frederic – Tomáš Nosek – Curtis Lazar
Matt Grzelcyk – Charlie McAvoy
Mike Reilly – Brandon Carlo
Derek Forbort-Connor Clifton
Buffalo Sabres Lines
John Jason Peterka-Tage Thompson-Alex Tuch
Jeff Skinner-Peyton Krebbs-Victor Olofsson
Brett Murray-Cody Eakin-Kyle Okposo
Anders Bjork-Arttu Ruotsalainen-Rasmus Asplund
Rasmus Dahlin-Henri Jokiharju
Mark Pysk-Ethan Prow
Will Butcher-Casey Fitzgerald