Preview: Sabres at Bruins
The Boston Bruins enjoyed a much-needed breather after a difficult stretch in which they lost five of six games (1-2-3) and hope to keep the momentum going against a slumping Atlantic Division rival. Boston has yet to lose in regulation at TD Garden and puts an 11-game home point streak on the line against the visiting Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night.
After absorbing three shootout losses in four games, the Bruins coasted to a 5-1 romp at the New Jersey Devils behind a pair of goals from defenseman Matt Grzelcyk, who is filling in for an injured Torey Krug. "You need that to be a successful organization," coach Bruce Cassidy said. "That's why we survive when we have injuries like we do. Next guy goes in and plays well." The Sabres have dropped eight of nine (1-6-2) and, like Boston, enter their three-game road trip dealing with a string of injuries, having played with 11 forwards in Tuesday's 4-1 loss to Minnesota. "It’s frustrating the position we’re in," captain Jack Eichel said. "But it’s just going to test our character right now, and our will to compete on a nightly basis, and just our will to win.”
TV: 7 p.m. ET, TVAS, Sportsnet One, Sportsnet East, MSG-Buffalo, NESN (Boston)
ABOUT THE SABRES (10-8-3): Coach Ralph Krueger shuffled his lines at Wednesday's practice, with the most notable change involving the move of Jimmy Vesey to the top line alongside Eichel and Sam Reinhart. "I said this a little bit in training camp, but getting put up there, it gives you a shot in the arm and a little bit of a boost," said Vesey, a Boston native who is still seeking his first goal this season. Johan Larsson, who has been sidelined for the past three games, returned to practice Wednesday.
ABOUT THE BRUINS (13-3-5): Top-line center Patrice Bergeron, out the past two games due to a lower-body injury, is expected to return to the lineup Thursday. "Today was a good skate, felt pretty good," Bergeron said. "It's a minor issue, but we want to make sure it doesn't linger for too long. Trying to be cautious and be 100 percent before getting back out there." David Krejci took Bergeron's spot in Tuesday's win and the No. 1 unit didn't miss a beat with seven points, including two goals by David Pastrnak.
1. Pastrnak has a league-best 19 goals but has been held to four in 15 games versus Buffalo.
2. Sabres F Marcus Johansson could play on the upcoming road trip, Krueger said Wednesday.
3. Bruins F Brad Marchand has 16 points (five goals, 11 assists) over 15 games in the previous four seasons against the Sabres.
PREDICTION: Bruins 4, Sabres 2