Preview: Sabres at Bruins
The Boston Bruins have put together a trio of three-game winning streaks within the past month and will look to match a season high when they host the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night. Boston started its latest three-game run with a 3-2 overtime victory on Dec. 29 at Buffalo, which is tied with the Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division.
Boston dealt with a slew of injuries to a number of key players but reached the midway point of the season with 50 points following a 6-4 win over Calgary on Thursday night. “I feel good about (it), to be honest with you," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. "We’d like to think we’ll get better, simply because a lot of the guys that were out that are key contributors are now healthy.” Buffalo ended a three-game winless drought with a 4-3 victory over Florida on Thursday night despite the absence of star captain Jack Eichel, who will also sit out Saturday's matchup. "There's an opportunity there," Sabres forward Jeff Skinner said. "Obviously, it's a big hole to fill but we're going to try to fill it by committee."
TV: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN Plus, MSG-Buffalo, NESN (Boston)
ABOUT THE SABRES (22-13-6): Eichel, who has a team-leading 49 points in 40 games, was named to the All-Star team and Skinner is bidding to join him via the "Last Men In" ballot in which fans can submit their votes among 31 candidates. Skinner, in his first season with Buffalo after he was acquired from Carolina in the offseason, certainly is worthy of a spot after he scored twice against Florida to boost his season goal total to 28 -- second in the league to Alex Ovechkin entering Friday's play. "Jeff Skinner has obviously been a big, big contributor for us and put us in this position," coach Phil Housley said.
ABOUT THE BRUINS (23-14-4): Jake DeBrusk scored in the win over Buffalo and netted a pair of goals in Thursday's win, giving him eight game-winning tallies in his career -- third behind Connor McDavid (13) and Kyle Connor (9) among players from the 2015 draft class. Forward David Backes finished serving his three-game suspension for an illegal hit to the head and will be back in the lineup Saturday, although he doesn't plan to alter his style. "If I take hitting out of my game, I’ll be pretty useless in pretty quick order," Backes said. "So I need to play my game and let the chips fall where they may.”
1. Bruins G Tuukka Rask takes a 14-7-1 record and 2.14 goals-against average versus Buffalo into Saturday's start.
2. Skinner scored twice at Boston on Dec. 16 but has only five goals in 27 games against the Bruins.
3. Bruins F Brad Marchand missed the last meeting against Buffalo but has eight goals and 20 points in his last 12 games.
PREDICTION: Bruins 4, Sabres 3