What a difference a week makes. At this time last week, the Buffalo Sabres were 2-0 heading into a home-and-home with the Carolina Hurricanes. Since then, the Sabres have dropped four straight and now sit at the bottom of the Northeast Division while the surging Boston Bruins sit on top with a 5-0-1 record.
The Bruins and Sabres have a checkered past as of late after forward Milan Lucic checked Ryan Miller in the open ice and sent him out with a concussion. The Sabres' grittiness had been a point of contention since then.
Look for the Sabres to make a statement that they will not lay down again this year if the Bruins tough guys come calling. If the Sabres wish to do that, they'll have to do it with forward Patrick Kaleta (neck) who was boarded against Toronto and was sent to the hospital or observation. He has since been released from the hospital.
The Sabres will also be missing forwards Cody McCormick and Ville Leino while defenseman Robyn Regehr is day-to-day.
The position battle tonight will be in net. While Ryan Miller has been admittedly not as good as he wishes to be on a nightly basis. Miller is 2-2-1 so far after dropping the overtime decision to Toronto earlier this week. So far, Miller has a 2.38 goals against average and a .925 save percentage.
At the other end of the rink, Tuukka Rask has been lights out. He boasts a 4-0-1 record and has a 1.74 goals against average and a .932 save percentage.
This is where the game will be decided. Goaltending will be the key to victory in Boston tonight. As important, will be the defense in front of net.
Boston boasts a strong defense, with Zdeno Chara leading the way. The Sabres are struggling to find their defensive identity this season, at times looking lost and slow.
The coaching staff may shake up the pairings to see if they can spark a strong pair.
Offensively, Thomas Vanek will be back after missing the Toronto game. He leads the team in goals and points so far this season, and his leadership is desperately needed when it comes to playing the Bruins, who the Sabres were 2-4 against last season.
The puck drops tonight at 7:00 p.m. from Boston. The game can be heard on 550-AM radio and seen on MSG.
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