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Game 70 Preview: Sabres (19-43-7) at Bruins (36-23-10)

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In the hunt for McDavid? You're doing it right, Sabres.

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Just the Facts:

Game Time: 7:30 PM, TD Garden.

TV Broadcast: NBCSN

Radio Broadcast: 98.5 The Sports Hub

Rival SB Nation Site: Die by the Blade

Buffalo Sabres - (19-43-7), 45 Points, 16th in the East

The Buffalo Sabres are coming to the end of what has essentially been a two-year tank-a-thon just South of the Canadian border. Boston's divisional rivals have had a tough stretch of it the last couple years, first having to sell their once Vezina-winning goaltender during a down year to St. Louis for what has amounted to relatively nothing--with both Chris Stewart and Jaroslav Halak on other teams' rosters--and then making a series of moves that saw various long-time Buffalonians walk out the door. Drew Stafford, Thomas Vanek, Tyler Myers, Ryan Miller, Steve Ott, Matt Moulson. All gone. And what's left is a scrap heap that has gone 2-6-2 in their last 10 games, and has just six wins since Christmas.

If there's a recipe for tanking, Buffalo has found it and perfected it to an extent that would make Anthony Bourdain and Gordon Ramsay fall to their knees with tears of joy. After their loss this past Friday to the New York Rangers, Buffalo hit -101 in goal differential. If it stays above (or below) the -95 mark, it would be the worst goal differential since Pittsburgh Crosby tank job in '03-'04, where they mustered a -113. Hell, on their pace they'll be passing it before season's end. Seeing as many see Connor McDavid to be the next Sideny Crosby, it's quite fitting that Buffalo has made sure to put themselves in prime position to have the best chance of grabbing him in the lottery.

Now the franchise that gave us the Turdburger is entering TD Garden for the final time this season. On the 2nd half of a back-to-back, no less. With Anders Lindback getting the start last night, early reports are coming out that Matthew Hackett will be getting the nod for their game in Boston. Hackett, a 25-year-old 3rd rounder from the 2009 Entry Draft has played a combined 10 games with Buffalo over the last two seasons, going 1-8-1 with a .900 SV% and 3.47 GAA. This is a game the Bruins need to have.

Boston Bruins - (36-23-10), 82 Points, 8th in the East

Despite Sunday's shutout loss to Washington, the Bruins are 5 points ahead of the Ottawa Senators for the final Wild Card spot going into this one. In their last 10 games, Boston is 7-2-1. In March, the Bruins are 5-1-1, and have scored 2 goals or more in all but the loss to the Capitals. But how many posts and panes of glass were nailed over that stretch? For the Corsis that made it on net, how many were stoned by great Tuukka saves? [Ed. Note: Niklas Svedberg is first off the ice, and is assumed to be starting in net tonight.] And would things have been different if they played against Hammond, Palat, and Crosby? Tonight, they face the worst team in Goals For, and second-worst team in Goals Allowed. And they're playing them while having a day of rest, and no travel.

While things are seemingly falling the Bruins' way, the last two games against the Sabres have not been easy. Both went to overtime, with the Bruins having to come from behind during regulation. And the Bruins have had a tendency to play down to their competition. We all thought going into Edmonton would be a piece of cake, right?

I can't see them losing this game, to be honest. I know every game is it's own battle, and any given Tuesday and yadda yadda. But the Bruins are the better team, clearly. On the ice, and on paper. And these are the games that Boston needs to have down the stretch if they want to hold on that 8th seed. Especially seeing that the five games that follow--at Ottawa, at Florida, at Tampa, against Anaheim, and against the Rangers--are going to be a grind. A Sabres loss could snowball into a losing streak against teams fighting for high seeds and playoff contention if they Bruins aren't careful.

But, c'mon... It's Buffalo.

Buffalo Sabres Lineup:

LW C RW
Matt Moulson
Matt Moulson
Johan Larsson
Johan Larsson
Tyler Ennis
Tyler Ennis
Marcus Foligno
Marcus Foligno
Phil Varone
Phil Varone
Brian Gionta
Brian Gionta
Nicolas Deslauriers
Nicolas Deslauriers
Cody Hodgson
Cody Hodgson
Tim Schaller
Tim Schaller
Jerry D'Amigo
Jerry D'Amigo
Matt Ellis
Matt Ellis
Zac Dalpe
Zac Dalpe
Defensive Pairings
Mike Weber
Mike Weber
Rasmus Ristolainen
Rasmus Ristolainen
Chad Ruhwedel
Chad Ruhwedel
Nikita Zadorov
Nikita Zadorov
Andre Benoit
Andre Benoit
Tyson Strachan
Tyson Strachan
Goalies
Anders Lindback
Anders Lindback
Matthew Hackett
Matthew Hackett

Boston Bruins Lineup:

LW C RW
Brad Marchand
Brad Marchand
Patrice Bergeron
Patrice Bergeron
Reilly Smith
Reilly Smith
Milan Lucic
Milan Lucic
Ryan Spooner
Ryan Spooner
David Pastrnak
David Pastrnak
Chris Kelly
Chris Kelly
 Carl Soderberg
Carl Soderberg
Loui Eriksson
Loui Eriksson
Daniel Paille
Daniel Paille
Gregory Campbell
Gregory Campbell
Max Talbot
Max Talbot
Defensive Pairings
Zdeno Chara
Zdeno Chara
Dougie Hamilton
Dougie Hamilton
Torey Krug
Torey Krug
Adam McQuaid
Adam McQuaid
Dennis Seidenberg
Dennis Seidenberg
Matt Bartkowski
Matt Bartkowski
Goalies
Tuukka Rask
Tuukka Rask
Niklas Svedberg
Niklas Svedberg

NEVAR FORGIT:

Dougie's big night out, earlier this season against Buffalo.