Bruins-Sabres preview: Revenge served cold


Bruins-Sabres preview: Revenge served cold

BUFFALO Revenge takes many different forms, and for the Bruins it will most likely take the form of two points at the end of Sunday night. If the Sabres mess with them as they did in their first home game in Boston a couple of weeks ago then the Bruins shouldnt show any hesitation in striking back.

But the Sabres are rounding out the bottom of the division despite holding the most games played of any team in the Northeast Division, and they should be coming into the game with a different kind of energy as this is their third game in the last four nights. Meanwhile, the Bruins have regained their defensive groove while allowing just a single goal in the last 120 minutes of hockey against the Maple Leafs and Canadiens.

The Bruins simply want to keep that string of quality playing moving while getting strong rebound games from players like Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron, who were scorched by Thomas Vanek for a hat trick the last time these two teams squared off. Vanek leads the NHL with 11 goals and 23 points scored this season, and has certainly caught the attention of the Bruins players and coaching staff.

We were much better, obviously, said Claude Julien. I think it was a little bit of a breakdown in our system and it happened to be against Buffalo. When you give that kind of team that kind of space and opportunities, theyre going to put the puck in the net.

Theres no doubt were going to focus on being better in our game without the puck tonight against the Sabres. Ryan Miller played well the last time out, but we still scored four goals against him. For us thats usually good enough for a win. We left our goalie hanging on a lot of our breakdowns. We hope to continue the offensive trend against them, but we need to tighten up defensively.

Its expected that Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton will both return to the lineup. What isnt expected is that anybody is going to bother with Sabres enforcer John Scott this time around, though that could change if the 6-foot-8 forward takes liberties with Bruins players as he did the last time.

Instead the focus will be on banking points, and the Bruins will store away the memories of their bitter home loss to the Sabres for payment at a later date with another game in Buffalo scheduled five days from now

PLAYER NEEDING HIS TIRES PUMPED: Dougie Hamilton has a single shot on net in his last two games, and the win over the Montreal was the first game this season where the rookie has been shut out without a single shot on net. Hamilton has also dropped to a minus-1 rating on the season in nine games and seems to be taking fewer chances offensively like he did in the first handful of games this season. Its too early to tell if its due to game circumstances or Hamilton is experiencing a simple rookie lull, so keep an eye on the 19-year-old in Sunday nights game against Buffalo.

DRESSING ROOM MANTRA HEADED INTO THE GAME: Were aware that they have some great players offensively. Thats what they want: the 2-on-1s and the odd-man rushes. We know their D-men have good skill and move up the ice very well. We just need to be aware of that and just play our game. We didnt do that against them the first time. Patrice Bergeron, among the Bruins defensive players hearing the clarion call to improve their game against the Sabres on Sunday night.

KEY MATCHUP: It all comes down to Zdeno Chara and Johnny Boychuk finding a way to neutralize Thomas Vanek after the Buffalo forward has blown up this season. He leads the NHL with 11 goals and 23 points in 11 games for the Sabres and torched the Bruins for a hat trick two weeks ago in Boston. Chara finished with a minus-3 and zero registered hits while he was chasing skaters and pucks all over the defensive zone. Vaneks career numbers (28 goals and 54 points in 46 career games) against Boston are off the charts, and Chara needs to prove he can be the Big Eraser against Buffalo on Sunday night.

STAT TO WATCH: 170 . . . That's the number of NHL coaching changes since Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff was named head of the Sabres in 1997.

INJURIES: Shawn Thornton (concussion), Dan Paille (eye) and Brad Marchand (shoulder) are all potentially available for the Bruins. Paille and Thornton both looked like they might be returning to the lineup based on morning skate, and Marchand might be sitting for the second straight game. Claude Julien termed all three game-time decisions.

GOALTENDING MATCH-UP: Tuukka Rask had only 20 saves against the Montreal Canadiens in a win Wednesday night, but his first period performance was the difference between a win and a loss. Anton Khudobin was the first goaltender off the ice for the Bruins during morning after starting one goal in the first three weeks of the season, and Claude Julien said it be either goalie that gets the start. Ryan Miller will get the call for the Sabres after also playing in last nights 3-2 win over the New York Islanders, and has been okay with a 3.07 goals against average and .909 save percentage. It might be challenging for Miller to bounce back while playing his third game in the last four days, but he has won two games in a row.

Backes, on mend from bout with diverticulitis, may return Thursday


Backes, on mend from bout with diverticulitis, may return Thursday

BRIGHTON -- While there will clearly need to be sign-offs from the medical staff, the Bruins aren’t ruling out a return from David Backes for Thursday night’s game vs. the Vancouver Canucks.

Both Backes and Patrice Bergeron returned to Bruins practice with the rest of their teammates on Tuesday morning at Warrior Ice Arena, but it was only the 33-year-old Backes that practiced fully without any limitations.

“He skated a little while we were away and a full practice today, so we’ll consult with the medical staff going forward with his plan,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “Potentially he could be an option for Thursday, and I think that should sort itself out in the next couple of days. We’re no different than anybody else, right? We’d like to have our full complement, and some of the guys we’re missing are glue guys that could really add that element to some of the kinds of games that got away from us.”


After the team practice, Backes said that he’s been skating for the last four days and that he’s lost about 10 pounds over the last couple of weeks while adjusting to the medication and dietary treatments for diverticulitis. It wasn’t a complete shock to Backes given some of his family medical history, but he wasn’t expecting anything like that to hit him in the prime of his professional athletic career at just 34 years old.

“I have a family history of it, but this is kind of unfortunate timing and unfortunate circumstances. Hopefully I take care of this, get it behind me and not have to ever think about it again,” said Backes. “The first couple of days it was tough to just stand up straight or do anything, and then you’re on a ‘no exercise’ regimen for six or seven days. So progress . . . certainly. A return . . . we’ll see. Long-term prognosis we’ll have to discuss with the really smart guys.

“You don’t have much appetite, to deal with pain you take a painkiller and then that slows down digestion and just makes it even worse. So you’re stuck there…and it really drains your energy. I was on a liquid diet there for a few days and lost about 10 pounds. I don’t suggest that as a crash diet for anybody.”

He’s come a long way from being stuck in a Mass General hospital bed during Bruins opening night against the Nashville Predators, and Backes is hoping he’ll be all the way back to playing sooner rather than later. The Bruins right winger skated in a third line spot with Riley Nash and Tim Schaller on Tuesday, and said he’s actually even consulted a bit with former Patriots offensive lineman Matt Light, who battled his own stomach issues with Crohn’s Disease during his NFL career.

“I was like a kid in a candy store before practice. You have that carrot of Game 1 dangled in front of you and then taken away, and finally you’re back with the guys on the ice after they’ve been gone a week. Knowing what the results have been you want to interject a little energy out there while knowing that we’ve got 77 games left to establish ourselves, and find our game,” said Backes. “I felt good out there and it was nice to be back on the ice. I was smiling most of the day knowing that I’ll hopefully be playing some ice hockey in the future.

“We’re working to get that strength back and to return me to a productive member of this hockey team, which is going to be on the upswing here shortly. It’s not just due to me, but because guys are putting work in as a group. I’m trying to be as educated about it as I can, so I can be available as often as possible and as productive as possible when I am available.”

There are medical hurdles that need to be traversed by Backes before he can return, but once it becomes a matter of toughness and grit then he’ll be suiting up again for the Black and Gold, and that moment might be coming soon.


'I definitely wasn't mad at our team,' Rask says of Vegas postgame comments


'I definitely wasn't mad at our team,' Rask says of Vegas postgame comments

BRIGHTON, Mass – Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask was acting a bit out of character after the Sunday night loss to the Vegas Golden Knights when he said he wouldn’t be commenting on team performance outside of his own goaltending. 

Clearly, it was a tense atmosphere in the Bruins dressing room following an extremely bad road performance and it would seem very likely there’s probably been some friction in the past between Rask and positional players over his postgame candor.


That was the backdrop for Rask keeping it laconic, and saying on Sunday night: “I just try to go out there and give us a chance to win every night. That’s what I’m focused on. I’m not going to comment anymore on team play that much. We can just talk about goaltending. That’s just the way it is. Sorry.”

It would seem that some fans and Bruins observers took that to mean Rask was pissed off at his Bruins teammates after a few breakdowns defensively, and a total non-performance at the offensive end of the ice.

Taking all that into account, Rask clarified his comments a bit after practice Tuesday at Warrior Ice Arena and said it’s all about focusing on his own performance rather than taking issues with any of his teammates.

“You lose games and you’re not happy with your performance. Somebody just told me that I guess it got spun the wrong way that it was me mad at my teammates or something. That’s definitely not the case,” said Rask, whom at 1-3-0 with a 3.30 goals-against average and .880 save percentage this season, is clearly in need of some improvement as well.

“You lose games and you definitely hold yourself accountable and you want to talk about your performance and what you need to do to get better," Rask said. "So, that’s where I was coming from. I definitely wasn’t mad at our team. I was more mad at myself, so that’s that.

“You always try to give a fair assessment about the game, but I think the biggest thing that I need to worry about, and what everybody else needs to worry about, is how they get better themselves. You start from that, so that’s where I was coming from.”

The prospect of getting Patrice Bergeron and David Backes back healthy would go a long way toward improving the Bruins play on the ice and stabilizing things defensively for Rask and the rest of the Black and Gold. That’s really what’s needed at this point to improve a situation where the B’s are 23rd in the NHL, averaging 3.6 goals allowed per game, and real, rather than figurative, fingers might start getting pointed all around if it doesn’t start looking better in short order.