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Sabres (14-16-2) at Bruins (19-10-4) Preview

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They may not be your Dad's Sabres, but they're not the ones you're used to either.

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The Bruins have had three days to re-charge since the 2-0 loss to the St. Louis Blues finally ended their point streak, and face divisional opponent Buffalo for the first time this season at 7 PM tonight. In one of the cruel tricks that NHL schedule-makers seem to enjoy, tonight's game is the first of three in four days; tomorrow, the Bruins will be on a back-to-back in Ottawa, and on Tuesday the Sens complete the home-and-home by heading here. After that, there's a Winter Classic thingy that you may have heard of.

Just The Facts:

When: 7 PM

Where: TD Garden

Watch: NESN, MSG-B, Bell TV

Listen: 98.5 The Sports Hub, NHL Radio

Rival SB Nation Site: Die By The Blade

Sabres Skinny:

Coach: Dan Bylsma (currently probably chuckling at the state of the Pittburgh Penguins, though he might not be as vindictive as I'd be in the same situation)

Probable Goaltender -- "Hi I'm" Chad Johnson, .918 SV% in 22 games. Johnson's been up and down, but he's mostly taken advantage of the playing time afforded to him by another injury to Plan A Robin Lehner.

Leading Scorers -- Ryan O'Reilly, 29 points, including 12 goals. O'Reilly is tied with the 21-year-old D-Man Rasmus Ristolainen for the team lead in Assists, with 17. Rookie Jack Eichel, thrust into the Calder talks by his selection by the Sabres at 2nd overall, is 3rd on the team with 16 points (9 goals).

"X-Factor" -- Evander Kane started the season injured, and has now gotten up to 7-5-12 in 24 games, with 84 shots (more than 3 a game) poured on net this season. He's actually slumped recently, so I expect big things out of him in front of the media that always seems to float him as a trade target

Weakness -- While the Sabres are now heavy on young talent, as one would expect with Tim Murray's "grab ALL of the draft picks!" approach to rebuilding, the team is still inexperienced and ranks 6th-to-last in score-adjusted shot attempts. TL;DR they're not a good possession hockey team yet.

Recent Trends -- Buffalo's been getting good results of late, largely thanks to Johnson's resurgence, and the team is 6-4-2 in its last ten games. Buffalo's Power Play has not scored in its last 12 chances, despite generating SOG at a rate in Top 10 of the NHL.

Game Notes:

Buffalo's actually more rested than the Bruins, coming in having not played since last weekend. As mentioned above, these teams two teams have not played each other yet this season, after Boston was 3-0-1 (the SO loss was that game where Anders Lindback made something like 50 saves) against Buffalo last season. This game represents the final contest of the three game homestand for the Bruins, who are currently a subpar 8-8-2 at TD Garden.

And yes, with 3 games in hand, the Bruins are still just one point behind the Montreal Canadiens for first place in the Atlantic Division. Buffalo is one point ahead of hapless Toronto for 7th, and is 6-7-2 on the road.

Probably goes without saying, but a key endeavor for the Bruins is to keep Ryan O'Reilly's line contained, as Buffalo has trouble generating offense when he's not on the ice.

The Bruins with be without the services of Maxime Talbot, serving Game 2 of three-game suspension for his hit on Jiri Tlusty. We'll keep you all posted on further line-up changes, though I'd say it's fair to speculate that Tuukka Rask gets the start after Jonas Gustavsson played on Tuesday evening.

Fun Facts:

  • Today is Boxing Day. This may mean something to you! I'm not making light of that, just pointing that out!
  • The Sabres, once almost guaranteed to goon-it-up in response to The Great Lucic-Miller Incident, have averaged only 6.7 PIM per game this season. Which isn't to say that they can't play you physical, but this isn't a team putting John Scott on a defensive pairing anymore.
  • The Bruins and Sabres have allowed goals at almost the exact same rate per game, 2.54 and 2.53. I'll leave you to guess which team has scored more goals per game. You only get one guess.
  • Brian Gionta is on this team still. He has 10 points, 3 goals, and is likely to piss someone off.

Never Forget:

You can sing "Anders Lindback" to the tune of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." Wait, he isn't on this team anymore? Crap. Remind me to come up with something better next time.