Perhaps it will be another fight night at TD Garden. Even if it isn't, it will instead be about divisional opponents going for two points in a shortened 48-game regular season. The Bruins and Sabres clearly dont like each other and have plenty of past history, but theres also the sneaking suspicion that gooning it up isnt going to serve Buffalo despite the roster additions of John Scott and Steve Ott.
I think the fight talk is speculation, said Claude Julien. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesnt. So you can waste a lot of time thinking about it and answering questions. But you deal with it when it happens . . . if it happens.
The assumption when the Sabres signed the 6-foot-8, 260-pound Scott and traded for the irascible Ott is that Buffalo was looking to match the big, bad style of play employed by the Bruins and perhaps settle a few scores from last years testy matchups. The Bruins have scratched Chris Bourque for the first time in seven games and have activated AHL enforcer Lane MacDermid, so its not of bounds to believe that Boston thinks things could get a little rough in the hockey game.
Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff indicated that couldnt be further from the truth, and that the Sabres were invading the TD Garden ice with two points on their mind.
"We added Ott and Scott for added team toughness and to make us an overall grittier team," the Sabres coach said. "It had absolutely nothing to do with the Bruins. You try to win the puck battles and territorial battles, said Ruff. We have to win a game. In a short season we need points. We dealt with it last year where Gaustad fought Lucic and where Robyn Regehr fought Chara. We played a couple of great games and took away points. Hockey is about winning the physical battle and winning the mental battle. We're here to get the points."
That makes sense given that Buffalo is last in the Northeast Division with a 2-3-1 record and five points to start the season. But it would be surprising if Otts antics and the presence of Scott dont portend a few bits of nastiness between two hockey clubs that dont like each other much after a slew of games against each other each and every season.
PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRED PUMPED: Buffalo defenseman Tyler Myers has had a rough ride the last couple of years after winning the Calder Trophy as a rookie sensation with the Sabres. That rough ride continues this season for Myers, who has one point and a minus-2 in the first six games of this season for Buffalo. I wouldnt have guessed that Christian Ehrhoff and Jordan Leopold would be averaging more ice time than Myers this season, but thats been the case in the early going.
DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: "We always have good games with them. They always come out hard and we need to do the same. Theyve added a few guys and in the right time and place they have those guys that will fight a little bit more. Last year was last year. After what happened in the next game Lucic did what he had to do with Gaustad and thats over. By no means are we thinking about that. This is a good hockey team in Buffalo and when its a shortened season youre playing these teams a lot of times. So the two points are the thing. Chris Kelly on a matchup with the Buffalo Sabres that many think is going to have its share of hockey fight fireworks.
KEY MATCHUP: Thomas Vanek (3 goals, 7 assists) and Jason Pominville (4 goals, 5 assists) have a combined 19 points in Buffalos first six games and clearly powered the Sabres offense in the early going. It will be up to Zdeno Chara and Johnny BoychukDougie Hamilton to shut down their forward line and shut things down offensively. Chara has been in midseason form defensively to start the season and has been among Bostons best all-around players with five points in the first six games.
STAT TO WATCH: 3 The game against the Buffalo Sabres starts off a stretch of three games in a row against Northeast Division opponents with road tilts against the Maple Leafs and Canadiens dead ahead.
INJURIES: Rugged defenseman Robyn Regehr (lower body) is listed as day-to-day after missing Tuesday's game. Forward Patrick Kaleta will miss the game after spending Tuesday night in a hospital with a neck injury sustained when he was boarded by Toronto's Mike Brown. Cody McCormick (finger) and Ville Leino (strained right hip) are on injured reserve.
GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: Tuukka Rask will be making his sixth appearance of the season and has been everything the Bruins have wanted him to be thus far. For the season Rask is 4-0-1, and is fifth in the NHL with a 1.74 goals against average and a .932 save percentage. The Bruins will take those kinds of numbers stretched out over the long haul of a 48-game shortened season. Ryan Miller has always had a strong sense of antipathy for the Bruins during his Buffalo career and that should be no different in Thursday nights showdown. Miller is having a typically good start with a 2.37 goals against average and .925 save percentage, and perhaps the abbreviated NHL season will be a help to him as hes seemed to wear down in the past.