Two Northeast Division rivals clash as the Buffalo Sabres
visit the Boston Bruins on Thursday night. The NHL odds makers have set the
Bruins out in front as -170 favorites.
The Boston Bruins have lost two straight and have been in the
national spotlight after Zdeno Chara nearly paralyzed Montreal Canadiens
forward Max Pacioretty – literally. They’ll try to bounce back against the Buffalo Sabres, who are in dire need of some points of their own.
The Buffalo Sabres
Can Win Because…:
The Bruins are struggling and you have to look a little
deeper than just wins and losses to see it.
Yes, they still have won seven of their last nine games
but their power play, which was supposed to improve with the arrive of Tomas
Kaberle, has failed to score in the team’s last seven games (0-for-16).
Overall, the Bruins have scored just six goals in their last four games and
haven’t scored more than three goals in any of their last seven games.
If scoring is a problem, a visit from Sabres goaltender
is definitely not the solution. For his career, Miller is 19-5-7 against the
Bruins with a respectable GAA of 2.61.
When it comes to urgency and need, the Sabres definitely
have more motivation in their corner. They are tied for the last playoff spot
in the Eastern Conference and are fighting for their lives whereas the Bruins
are in better shape up in third place. It’s not do-or-die for them but for the
Sabres, every single point is critical.
While most teams don’t envy the chance to see Bruins
goaltender Tim Thomas, who is the NHL’s leader in GAA, the Sabres don’t mind as
much. Thomas is just 8-9-2 in his career against them with a GAA of 3.14.
That’s a stark contrast to his 1.97 GAA this season.
The Boston Bruins
Can Win Because…:
They are coming off of a pair of embarrassing outings and
they are ready to bounce back.
The Bruins were outhustled by the Pittsburgh Penguins on
Saturday when they fell 3-2 in overtime and then on Tuesday, their 4-1 loss was
mired by Zdeno Chara’s potentially crippling hit on Montreal Canadiens (who face the St Louis Blues tonight) forward
Max Pacioretty. Sometimes the word ‘crippling’ is used in regards to big body
checks but unfortunately in this case, Pacioretty was actually taken off the
ice on a stretcher and suffered fractured vertebrae.
On Thursday, they’ll be facing a finesse team that they
have dominated at home recently and they should get back on track.
Boston has won eight of the last 11 home meetings with
Buffalo and they’ll be far fresher for this contest.
Buffalo is in the midst of a seven-game road trip and
Thursday’s matchup will be their fourth game in sixth nights – all on the road.
After winning five of seven, the Pens took the wind out of their sales with a
3-1 win on Tuesday.
Tim Thomas should be in net for the Bruins on Thursday
and he should be well-rested. He got the night off on Tuesday and hasn’t played
since Saturday. That might help him improve upon his previous performances
Outlook & NHL
This is an odd game to handicap. Logic says that the
Sabres might be worn down, that the Bruins dominate this series at home and
that they will be fired up to put the focus back on the team and put Chara’s
hit behind them.
But the Sabres have Thomas’ number, winning four of the
last five meetings against him, and Miller is 3-0-1 versus the Bruins this
The Sabres need this game and with some value on the
line, they are worth a flier play.