|01.20.11 at 8:41 pm ET|
The Sabres picked it up in the second period, and after two, are tied with the Bruins, 2-2.
Nathan Horton turned the puck over while trying to break it out, and the play led to Cody McCormick clanking a shot off the post and sending the rebound past Tuukka Task just 1:04 into the period. The Bruins would re-take the lead at 4:51 on a bang-bang-bang play that was assisted by Shawn Thornton and Blake Wheeler.
Later in the period, with Wheeler in the box for goaltender interference, the Bruins had a couple of big shorthanded opportunities. Ryan Miller stopping Mark Recchi early on making another big save on a 3-on-2 from Zdeno Chara. The Sabres’ did make up for it, with Nathan Gerbe scoring on the power play at 10:36.
Through two, the Sabres have outshot the Bruins, 24-22.
|01.20.11 at 7:44 pm ET|
The B’s have 13 shots on net, with Tuukka Rask stopping all 11 shots he saw in the period.
Steven Kampfer drew the game’s first penalty when he hooked Thomas Vanek as the winger came around the net and sent a pass to Jason Pominville, who was promptly robbed by Rask.
With Kampfer in the box, David Krejci made a sharp move to keep the puck in the zone on a shorthanded bit. He sent it a few feet up Blake Wheeler, who was promptly tripped by Marc-Andre Gragnani, who was called up to take the place of the Drew Stafford (groin) in the lineup.
Vanek and Milan Lucic would add penalties for slashing and tripping, respectively, with each team going 0-for-2 in the period. The Bruins’ best opportunity on the power play came when, with Vanek in the box, a puck bound in front of the net to Horton with Miller out of position. Rather than taking the easy shot, Horton looked for Michael Ryder, and the play disintegrated.
|01.20.11 at 1:12 pm ET|
With the Bruins seeing the return of Andrew Ference to the lineup on Thursday, Adam McQuaid isn’t necessarily the odd man out yet, so to speak.
McQuaid missed last Monday’s game with an undisclosed injury, with the team calling up Matt Bartkowski to play in his place. The medical staff still doesn’t feel that McQuaid is in tip-top shape, so Claude Julien isn’t yet ready to say that the 24-year-old will once again be relegated to life as a healthy scratch.
“If they keep playing the way they are, it’s going to be difficult [to make a choice],” Julien said. “There’s no doubt. It’s certainly not going to be an easy decision to make, and if they’re all playing well, I’ve seen situations where you alternate and make sure they’re all playing.
“We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. It’s not something you look forward to but it’s something that you have to deal with at times. Right now I think our back end’s been pretty good for us, and they all deserve to play.”
With Steven Kampfer considering surgery on his broken nose, Julien isn’t very surprised that the right-handed puck-mover has played through the discomfort he’s been experiencing. Kampfer broke his nose Saturday against the Penguins when Zdeno Chara got him in the face with his stick.
“It’s been getting a little better, but I think that there’s blood up there that has clogged up his sinuses and has made it hard for him to breathe, but he’s certainly playing through it, and that’s what we’re talking about [with guys playing through pain].
“We know what Kampfer brings to our team,” Julien added. “We haven’t got a lot of guys that are offensive minded and mobile defensemen like he is, and when you make a decision [on who to play], you make it based on that as well.”
Tuukka Rask is expected to start. Here are some other notes from the morning skate:
– The lines all looked the same for the Bruins on Thursday morning. They are as follows:
Ryder – Savard – Horton
Marchand – Bergeron – Recchi
Lucic – Krejci – Seguin
Wheeler – Campbell – Thornton
– This will be Blake Wheeler‘s third straight game on the “energy line.” While many would have expected the 24-year-old to be a top-9 forward, Julien said the emergence of Brad Marchand has allowed them to use Wheeler with Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton.
“I think the fact that we put Marchand with [Patrice] Bergeron and that line was going well, we thought that Wheels is probably really similar to [Marchand] as far as his relentless forecheck and his good skating. I thought he’d be a good fit for that line and we’ve always liked that line since the beginning of the year and somehow without moving Marchand [back] we’re trying to keep it a lot of the same.”
Wheeler has 10 goals and 11 assists for 21 points this season. He picked up an assist on Campbell’s second-period goal on Monday.
– Julien is hoping to not see anything resembling a repeat of the B’s last meeting with the Sabres. The Bruins blew three different leads on Jan. 1 before losing, 7-6, in a shootout. Julien said the game was a shootout in more ways than one given the back-and-forth nature of the game, calling the contest “uncharacteristic of the way these two teams play each other.”
Luckily for the Bruins, Drew Stafford, who had a hat trick and scored in the shootout, will not play for Sabres tonight due to a groin injury.
On the season, the Bruins have gone 2-1-1 against the Sabres.
– Tyler Seguin, who has spent the last couple of games on a line with David Krejci and Milan Lucic, doesn’t have a point over his last four games. Seguin and Krejci seem a natural fit for one another given their speed, and Julien said that he likes the rookie on the wing with Krejci in the middle.
Seguin is obviously in a more comfortable place than he was at the beginning of the year, and he’s had flashes of brilliance that he’s tried to sustain. Julien said Thursday that the second half of the season will be another challenge that the second overall pick will encounter.
“I think we still know there’s room for him to continue to improve. And you know, as we get closer to the end of the year, games get tougher and tougher and he’s got to learn to be able to battle in those circumstances and that’s what we expect from him,” Julien said. “His skill level is what it is, it’s great and it’s going to keep showing more and more as he progresses with experience.
“The one thing he hasn’t faced yet is that second half of the year where games mean so much to teams and that grinding part of it means more and more and he’s got to be able to battle through that.”
Seguin is 15th among rookies with 16 points this season.
|01.20.11 at 12:08 pm ET|
Bruins rookie defenseman Steve Kampfer, sporting stitches on his right nostril, said he will try to play with his broken nose for now. But Kampfer said surgery is a possibility if his breathing is affected. Kampfer left last Saturday’s game with a bloodied and broken nose when Zdeno Chara‘s stick became entangled with Pascal Dupuis and flew up and raked Kampfer across the face.
“They’re going to try and open up the airway, surgery or what it be,” Kampfer said. “Right now, we’re just trying to see if it pops open in the next couple of days with flushing it more but I’m optimistic that I don’t have to go to surgery because that’s the last thing you want to do but at the same time, I can breathe enough to get by. I think that’s the main issue right now is I can breathe, I can play and that’s what I’m going to try to do moving forward.
“I breathe mostly through my mouth when I play, anyway. I keep my mouth open the whole game. It’s not something that’s bothered me the whole time when I’ve played. But at the same time, it would be nice not to wake up with a cotton mouth every morning. It’s one of those things you’ve got to pray it opens up.”
|01.20.11 at 12:03 pm ET|
Bruins coach Claude Julien described defenseman Andrew Ference as “good and cleared to go,” meaning the blueliner will make his return to the lineup when the B’s host the Sabres on Thursday night. Ference has missed the team’s last three games with an upper-body injury. Adam McQuaid, who missed last Monday’s game against the Penguins, is out, with Julien adding that he still is less than 100 percent.
“It’s not a tough decision [to sit McQuaid] because in his case, he’s been playing banged up for the last couple of weeks,” Julien said. “I think the medical staff said it would probably be beneficial for him to take a bit of a break. I think he could certainly play through it if he had to.”
Tuukka Rask was the first goaltender off the ice in the morning skate, an indication that he will start in goal. In Rask’s last start against the Sabres, he allowed three goals in the first period an was replaced by Tim Thomas at the start of the second. The Bruins went on to lose the game, 7-6, in a shootout.
|01.19.11 at 10:29 pm ET|
After sweeping a home-and-home with the Hurricanes on Monday and Tuesday, the Bruins will return to the Garden Thursday to face the Sabres for the fifth time this season. Thus far, they’ve gone 2-1-1 against the Sabres, with the most recent meeting resulting in a 7-6 shootout loss on Jan. 1.
That New Years Day game was a memorable one, as Tuukka Rask was yanked after three first-period goals, while Drew Stafford had a hat trick and scored one of the Sabres’ three shootout goals. Luckily for the Bruins, Stafford is not expected to play Thursday due to a groing injury.
WHERE IT’S AT
– The Bruins are 12-8-3 in home games this season. They’ve gone 3-2-0 at the Garden since the New Year, and have received a pair of Tim Thomas shutouts over their last four home games. Only one of the four meetings between the two teams this season has been at the Garden, with the B’s taking a 3-2 shootout win on Dec. 7.
– The Sabres are 9-9-4 on the road this season and have gone 2-1-1 away from HSBC Arena in 2011. In their most recent road contest, they took a 5-3 loss to the Islanders on Saturday.
– Four different Bruins’ defenseman scored in the Jan. 1 game, as the B’s got first-period goals from Andrew Ference, Dennis Seidenberg and Zdeno Chara in the first, as well as third-period tally from Steven Kampfer. The defense wasn’t exactly overwhelming in their own end, as the B’s blew three different leads in the game.
– Ryan Miller has started 22 games dating back to Nov. 26. And people were worried about Thomas’ eight in a row last month’¦
– The Bruins have the second-best goal differential in the Eastern Conference at plus-39. The Sabres have a minus-9 differential.
– Mark Recchi has four multi-point games in the Bruins’ last 12. Linemate Patrice Bergeron has five multi-point games in that stretch.There’s no doubting that their line with Brad Marchand has been one of the most consistent of late.
– Johnny Boychuk scored his first goal of the season Tuesday in Carolina. He was initially credited with the goal, a blast from the point, before credit was given to Marc Savard. A second change to call gave the goal to Boychuk for good.
STORYLINES GOING IN
– The Sabres are eight points out of a playoff spot, and have played less games than every team currently in line for a trip to the postseason. Given how they’ve fared against the B’s thus far and the fact that they’re coming off a win over the Canadiens, this is a big game for the Sabres. The Bruins have played 46 games to the Sabres’ 45, though the eighth-place Thrashers have played 48. Buffalo isn’t counting this season as a lost one, and even without Derek Roy, who had 35 points in 35 games before a left quadriceps tear ended his season in December.
– Ference was again kept out of Tuesday’s game, with Claude Julien saying he could have played in a pinch. Ultimately, both Kampfer and Adam McQuaid have filled in admirably for the B’s and the team doesn’t feel pressured to rush Ference back at the risk of the upper-body injury that’s ailed him. Ference has missed the last three games for the Bruins.
|01.19.11 at 12:49 pm ET|
NESN and NBC Sports NHL analyst Mike Milbury made his weekly appearance on the Dale & Holley show Wednesday to talk about the Bruins. To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.
Milbury said this is the best he’s seen Patrice Bergeron play. “[He’s] seeing the ice, quick to the puck, totally unafraid, does all the little things right, good on the draws, goes to the front of the net, sees the ice well ‘ there’s nothing to not like about his game,” Milbury said.
The lack of production from the first line is a concern to Milbury. “[Nathan] Horton, [Marc] Savard and [Milan] Lucic have got to find a way to put points on the board,” he said. “They’ve been winning a whole bunch of games without a lot of support from those three guys. Listen, there’s no getting around, it’s their top line. And if your top line isn’t producing the way you expect it to, you’re going to run into problems sooner or later.
“The flip side of that is, because of the balance that they now have, they’re able to do it while the first line finds their rhythm.”
Of Horton, Milbury said. “He’s yet to get fully engaged in the game on a regular basis. By that I mean hustle to loose pucks, work really hard to get there. I’ve seen him fight and he can really go, so I know he’s not afraid. But the point is ‘ and this is the common catchword ‘ there’s got to be more urgency to his game. He’s got to want it more. He’s got to fight for loose pucks a little bit more. He’s got to be a little bit more reckless in his game. Until he gets that, his progress is going to be checked, in my opinion.”
Meanwhile, Milbury likes what he’s seeing from the fourth line. “The Bruins have as good a fourth line as there is in the game right now with [Brad] Marchand, [Gregory] Campbell and Shawn Thornton,” Milbury said. “[Campbell] plays hard every night. He’s a coach’s dream, because you know what you’re going to get shift after shift.”
As for Marchand, Milbury said: “He uses his assets, which are his feet, and a little bit of grit to get where he needs to go. ‘¦ We talk about Horton and engaging and getting the most out of what you’ve got. Well, this kid is getting all of what he can give and then some.”
Looking at the Eastern Conference, Milbury said, “I still think Pittsburgh is the team to beat, and Philly second.”
As for the Bruins, “It’s still a team that I think has yet to hit its full stride,” Milbury said. “But things have changed now for the Bruins. [Tuukka] Rask is back in the picture, [Tim] Thomas is still playing incredibly well, the defense is starting to act like it can jump into the offense or produce when it comes to getting shots on goal, and you’ve got three lines, at least right now, that are playing I think well enough to win on most nights ‘ and they are winning on most nights. If they can ever get that first line humming, they’ve got to be be a strong candidate to come out of the Eastern Conference.”