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Bruins ready to bounce back against Buffalo

01.28.10 at 1:44 pm ET

WILMINGTON — After a week of practice to get healthy and screw their heads on straight, the Bruins will travel to Buffalo on Friday to take on the Northeast Division leading Sabres. It is an interesting challenge for Boston as the Buffalo is 15 points ahead of the Bruins in the standings but has been in a bit of a funk for the last week, going 1-3-1 in its last five games. The Sabres did snap a three game skid by beating the Devils 2-1 in a shootout on Wednesday night in New Jersey and remain a very dangerous team in the Eastern Conference.

“They are a pretty good team, they are playing well,” coach Claude Julien said. “I saw them play yesterday against New Jersey. They are playing with lots of confidence, they got great goaltender which keeps them in the game. They gave up 40 shots last night and only gave up a goal. We are already challenged a little bit in the goal scoring department so we are going to have to work just that much harder to get past this guy.”

The Sabres goaltender is Ryan Miller who is expected to be the starting net-minder for Team USA in the Vancouver Olympics and is second in the NHL with a 2.06 goals-against average. As Julien said, with the Bruins scoring woes, it will indeed be a challenge.

On the offensive end Buffalo’s charge is led by Tim Connolly who has 13 goals and 35 assists for 48 points for the Sabres and is an underrated but valuable play-maker that Boston will try to contain. Connolly had a 16-game point streak broken on Wednesday against New Jersey.

“He is a highly skilled player,” Julien said. “I don’t think people know him enough because he has had all of these injuries and concussions and he hasn’t played for big portions of seasons so we have not got to know him as well. I coached against him at the World Juniors and he was a good player. That is why, talk about a scoring streak, if he is healthy and you give him some space he is pretty crafty and skilled and will find ways to make plays and score goals.”

Boston is not looking ahead. It cannot afford to. Buffalo represents a big challenge after the long week and then it has a quick turnaround against the Kings at TD Garden on Saturday.

“They have some good team speed and a pretty good offense if you give them time and space,” Tim Thomas said. “It is a challenge for us. We have to turn it around, starting now. Not next game, not after Buffalo. Now.”

Thomas said that the Bruins do not have the notion of trying to catch the Sabres in the division but rather to focus on goals that are in their immediate line of sight.

“We don’t have to shoot that far ahead.” Thomas said. “We have to get back into a playoff spot and start from there.”

Blake Wheeler said that the Bruins are focused more on themselves then they are on the Sabres.

“It is less about who we play than about how we play,” Wheeler said. “We have kind of struggled finding our consistency, so, if we can perform 60-minutes of hockey it is going to give us a good chance to win no matter who we play.”

Marco Sturm was back on the ice and skated with Patrice Bergeron and Byron Bitz wearing yellow practice sweaters. Sturm said that he feels better and will travel with the team on Friday though will not play.

“It was pretty good,” Sturm said. “It was my first time today. Still not 100 percent hopefully it will not stay like this.”

Sturm does not have a return date as of yet though said that he will travel with the team to Buffalo.

“Just going to go day-by-day,” Sturm said. “I skated last week and was pretty sore so I am just going to see how it is tomorrow.

Marc Savard said that he is definitely good to good for the Sabres and that he is looking forward to skating on a line with Milan Lucic and Miroslav Satan.

‘€œ[Lucic] and I had some chemistry last year, we have another 81 (Satan) on the other side, that’€™s good,’€ Savard said.

‘€œI’€™m going to play tomorrow, I’€™m excited for that, we got some good work in this week,’€ said Savard, who was pleased with the camaraderie around the rink this week. ‘€œWe obviously had a tough stretch but we has some good smiles out there. We were enthusiastic. We did a lot of things together this week to bring us back together. ‘€œ

Here is Thursday’s practice participation by sweater color:

White – Satan, Savard, Lucic.

Grey – Michael Ryder, David Krejci, Blake Wheeler.

Yellow – Sturm, Bergeron, Bitz.

Red – Daniel Paille, Vladimir Sobotka, Steve Begin, Shawn Thornton.

Defense – Zdeno Chara, Derek Morris, Mark Stuart, Dennis Wideman, Matt Hunwick, Adam McQuaid (Andrew Ference did not participate in full skate).

Goaltenders – Tim Thomas, Tuukka Rask.

Read More: Buffalo Sabres, Marc Savard, Marco Sturm, Tim Thomas
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