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Nathan Horton quiet in more ways than one 01.20.11 at 10:29 pm ET
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Nathan Horton was stopped in the first period by Ryan Miller. (AP)

Nathan Horton has fought his entire career to shake the reputation of a player who “disappears” from games. After catastrophic second and third periods Thursday night that led to a couple of the Sabres’ four goals in a 4-2 Bruins loss, Horton was missing from the dressing room. He was requested by the media, but was not available for postgame comment.

It likely would have been the Boston media’s one chance at seeing an upset Horton. The 25-year-old is known for his permanent grin and his extremely friendly attitude, but after one of his more forgettable games of the season, there was no Horton — for whatever reason — to be found.

“He is doing good things, but I think right now his confidence is probably at the lowest it’s ever been, because he understands that he needs to score and it’s not happening,” Claude Julien said after the game.

After scoring 11 goals in his first 28 games, including two in the season-opener, Horton has just one goal over his last 17 games.

“I think he’s putting a lot of pressure on himself, which may not be helping him right now. I think everybody on this team — players and coaching staff — are really helping to see him score a few goals so that he can get himself going,” Julien said.

“I think that’s what’s happening right now. He’s really probably down as far as confidence is concerned and feeling the pressure.”

Zdeno Chara caught flak after making himself unavailable to the media following the team’s overtime loss to the Canadiens this month, but has redeemed himself with stellar play of late. If it can work for Horton, the famed smile may return to the winger — and a town that has spent the last couple of months confused about one of their best scorers.

Read More: Nathan Horton,
Bruins fall to Sabres 01.20.11 at 9:32 pm ET
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The Bruins blew a pair of leads on Thursday en route to a 4-2 loss to the Sabres at TD Garden.

The B’s got tallies from Dennis Seidenberg and Gregory Campbell to give them leads in the first and second periods, but Nathan Horton had a pair of costly turnovers that led to Sabres goals, including Thomas Vanek‘s game-winner at 5:13 of the third period.

Cody McCormick, Nathan Gerbe, and Jason Pominville also scored for the Sabres. Vanek and Tyler Ennis each had multi-point nights. Vanek got the helper on Pominville’s tally, while Ennis assisted McCormick’s and Gerbe’s goals.

Tuukka Rask made 29 saves on 33 shots faced, while Ryan Miller got the win via a 38-save effort.

The Bruins will play their next two games on the road, playing in Colorado and Los Angeles before returning to TD Garden to face the Panthers next Wednesday.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS

- Nathan Horton is downright freezing, and it was another rough one for the winger on Thursday. The 25-year-old had the opportunities, but he couldn’t convert them, and even cost the Bruins big-time in his own end. He screened Miller on Seidenberg’s goal, but the pros outweighed the cons for Horton on the night. He was stuffed on a breakaway, elected to pass in front of the net with Miller out of position, and had the turnover in the Bruins’ zone that led to McCormick’s goal. Most costly of all was his third-period turnover that Vanek got the game-winner on.

Horton has just one goal in his last 17 games.

- For how good a third period team as the Bruins have been this season, they haven’t had as much success as they would like when entering the period tied. With Thursday’s loss, the B’s are now 3-5-2 when tied following the second period.

- As one of the top teams in the East, the Bruins need to get two points against clubs fighting for playoff spots. The B’s are now a less-than-impressive 2-2-1 against the Sabres this season.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS

- The Wheeler-Campbell-Thornton line is working, and it’s become pretty clear that Campbell and Thornton can bring success to just about anyone — even when it’s a guy like Wheeler who is clearly a top-9 type of forward. Campbell now has three goals in his last five games, and four in his last seven. Thornton, meanwhile, is beginning to crush Tim Thomas in their assist race. Thornton has five to Thomas’ three.

- Seidenberg seems to like playing against the Sabres. He’s scored two of his four goals this season against Ryan Miller. He also has a pair of assists against the Sabres this season, giving him four points in five games against Buffalo.

- Marc Savard, who got a helper on Seidenberg’s goal, now has an assist in four of his last five games. The bad is that he was a minus-1 for the second straight game.

Bruins, Sabres tied after two 01.20.11 at 8:41 pm ET
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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.

Dennis Seidenberg has Bruins leading Sabres after one 01.20.11 at 7:44 pm ET
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Dennis Seidenberg scored his fourth goal of the year when he sent a shot from the point past a Nathan Horton screen and Sabres netminder Ryan Miller. After one, the B’s have a 1-0 lead.

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.

Read More: 120 Sabres, Dennis Seidenberg,
Post-morning-skate notes: Claude Julien doesn’t want a repeat of last Sabres meeting 01.20.11 at 1:12 pm ET
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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.

Read More: Adam McQuaid, Andrew Ference, Claude Julien, Drew Stafford
Tuukka Rask off first for Bruins, Andrew Ference to play vs. Sabres 01.20.11 at 12:03 pm ET
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Andrew Ference will make his return to the Bruins' lineup Thursday night. (AP)

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.

Read More: Adam McQuaid, Andrew Ference, Tim Thomas, Tuukka Rask
Bruins try to keep momentum going as they host Sabres 01.19.11 at 10:29 pm ET
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Tim Thomas wasn't a happy camper the last time the Bruins faced the Sabres. (AP)

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.

NOTABLE NUMBERS

- 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.

Read More: Andrew Ference, Johnny Boychuk, Mark Recchi, Patrice Bergeron
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