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NHL Nick's Net Previews

Preview: Game No. 28– Bruins @ Sabres

For the first time this season, the Boston Bruins pay a visit to KeyBank Center to take on the Buffalo Sabres for Hockey Fights Cancer Night in Buffalo.

Last season, Boston went 3-0-0 against Buffalo in the pandemic shortened 2019-20 regular season, winning all three of their matchups, 3-2, on Nov. 21st in Boston, 3-0, on Dec. 27th in Buffalo and, 3-2, on Dec. 29th in Boston.

After Thursday night’s matchup, the two clubs will meet seven more times in 2020-21, including their next meeting on Saturday.

A couple of previous matchups against the Sabres were postponed to later dates in the season due to a plethora of Buffalo players in COVID protocol last month.

A coaching staff member for Buffalo and a Boston skater (Sean Kuraly) were placed in COVID protocol Thursday morning, resulting in both pregame skates being cancelled, but the game remains on schedule through contact tracing, etc.

The Sabres return home after a, 3-2, loss to the Devils in New Jersey and without their now former head coach, Ralph Krueger, who was fired on Wednesday.

Interim head coach Dom Granato was promoted from his position as an assistant coach in Buffalo, where he was hired in that role in 2019. He will be making his National Hockey League head coaching debut on Thursday.

Granato previously served as the head coach of the Columbus Chill (ECHL, 1997-99), head coach of the Peoria Rivermen (ECHL, 1999-2000), head coach of the Worcester IceCats (AHL, 2000-05), an assistant coach with the St. Louis Blues (2005-06), head coach of the Chicago Wolves (AHL, parts of two seasons, 2008-09 and 2009-10), head coach of the USA Hockey National Team Development Program (2013-16), assistant coach with the Wisconsin Badgers (NCAA, 2016), assistant coach with the Chicago Blackhawks (2016-19).

Buffalo, of course, is without their captain, Jack Eichel, due to injury.

Boston, meanwhile, is suffering from a plethora of injuries, rendering Tuukka Rask unavailable for the last five games, which meant that Dan Vladar got his first career NHL start on Tuesday after Jaroslav Halak was handed a, 4-1, loss in Pittsburgh on Monday.

Vladar made 34 saves on 35 shots to backstop the Bruins to a, 2-1, victory against the Penguins in his regular season debut in Pittsburgh on Tuesday night.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, is likely to tweak his lineup depending on player availability, as well as whether or not Rask will be good to go after missing six games this season due to an undisclosed injury.

Rask did travel with the team as part of their four-game road trip (1-1-0).

Boston will be without Ondrej Kase, Kevan Miller and Jeremy Lauzon, at least, as Kase has no timetable for a return, Miller is skating back in Boston and Lauzon is approaching one month since sustaining a fractured left hand, which takes four-to-six weeks recovery time.

Brandon Carlo, John Moore and Zach Senyshyn will also be out of the lineup for Boston, while Jarred Tinordi is likely to miss Thursday night’s game in Buffalo as well after sustaining an upper body injury on a hit from Pittsburgh’s Brandon Tanev that resulted in a boarding major, as well as a game misconduct and a five-minute power play for Boston.

Thursday marks the halfway point for the Bruins, who are 15-8-4 overall (34 points) and currently 4th place in the MassMutual NHL East Division, while the Sabres begin the second half of their season with a 6-18-4 record (16 points, last in the division).

Boston is 3-2 in overtime and 2-2 in shootouts (5-4 past regulation) this season, while Buffalo is 0-2 in overtime and 2-2 in shootouts (2-4 past regulation) thus far in 2020-21.

Boston is also 8-5-3 in 16 games on the road this season, including a 4-4-2 record in their last ten games, while Buffalo is 2-10-2 on home ice and 0-9-1 in their last ten games.

The B’s are 142-113-29-12 in 296 all-time regular season matchups against Buffalo with 949 goals for and 926 goals against in that span.

The Bruins are also 29-25-1-7 in 62 regular season games at KeyBank Center, though the Sabres have outscored Boston, 175-157, in that span.

Brad Marchand leads the Bruins in scoring with 12-21–33 totals in 27 games, while Patrice Bergeron is second with 25 points in 27 games and David Pastrnak is third with 24 points in 20 games, while leading his teammates in goals scored (13).

Marchand has a team-leading plus-nine rating in 27 games, while Chris Wagner is a minus-eight in 23 games this season.

Sam Reinhart and Victor Olofsson lead the Sabres in scoring with 19 points in 26 and 28 games, repsectively. Eichel (18 in 21 games) ranks third in scoring, while Reinhart leads the roster in goals scored with 11.

Jake McCabe is a plus-two in 13 games, while Rasmus Dahlin is a minus-27 in 28 games thus far.

If Rask gets the start for Boston, he is one win away from his 300th career NHL win, which would also make him the first goaltender in a Bruins uniform to reach the 300-win plateau.

David Krejci is one point away from his 700th career point and currently eighth all-time in scoring in a Bruins uniform with 699 career points.

Wayne Cashman (793 points) is seventh in all-time scoring with Boston.

Bruins captain, Patrice Bergeron (894 points) is four points away from tying Rick Middleton (898) for the fourth most points in a Boston uniform in franchise history.

The Bruins wrap up their four-game road trip with a Saturday matinee (1 p.m. ET puck drop) in Buffalo before returning home on March 23rd against the New York Islanders in what will be Boston’s first game at TD Garden to feature fans since the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic began last year.

TD Garden will be limited to a 12% seating capacity.

Expected lineups

Boston Bruins

63 Brad Marchand (A) 37 Patrice Bergeron (C) 88 David Pastrnak

74 Jake DeBrusk 46 David Krejci (A) 12 Craig Smith

21 Nick Ritchie 13 Charlie Coyle 62 Oskar Steen

11 Trent Frederic 18 Greg McKegg 83 Karson Kuhlman

48 Matt Grzelcyk 73 Charlie McAvoy

67 Jakub Zboril 75 Connor Clifton

54 Jack Ahcan 44 Steven Kampfer

41 Jaroslav Halak

80 Dan Vladar

Healthy scratches, injured and taxi squad members (officially TBA, below is only a prediction based on last game)

Jeremy Swayman, Anders Bjork, Chris Wagner, Greg McKegg, Zach Senyshyn (upper body), Brandon Carlo (upper body), John Moore (lower body), Ondrej Kase (upper body), Tuukka Rask (lower body), Sean Kuraly (COVID protocol), Jeremy Lauzon (fractured left hand), Urho Vaakanainen, Jarred Tinordi (upper body), Kevan Miller (right knee)

Buffalo Sabres

13 Tobias Rieder 12 Eric Staal 23 Sam Reinhart

4 Taylor Hall 15 Riley Sheahan 72 Tage Thompson

53 Jeff Skinner 27 Curtis Lazar 37 Casey Mittelstadt

68 Victor Olofsson 20 Cody Eakin 21 Kyle Okposo

78 Jacob Bryson 55 Rasmus Ristolainen

44 Matt Irwin 62 Brandon Montour

26 Rasmus Dahlin 33 Colin Miller

40 Carter Hutton

34 Jonas Johansson

Healthy scratches, injured and taxi squad members (officially TBA, below is only a prediction based on last game)

Jack Eichel, Henri Jokiharju, Dylan Cozens

Goaltending stats entering Thursday

Boston Bruins

1 Jeremy Swayman 0-0-0 in 0 GP, 0.00 GAA, .000 SV%, 0 SO

40 Tuukka Rask 8-4-2 in 14 GP, 2.46 GAA, .906 SV%, 0 SO

41 Jaroslav Halak 6-4-2 in 12 GP, 2.15 GAA, .918 SV%, 2 SO

80 Dan Vladar 1-0-0 in 1 GP, 1.00 GAA, .971 SV%, 0 SO

Buffalo Sabres

31 Dustin Tokarski 0-0-0 in 0 GP, 0.00 GAA, .000 SV%, 0 SO

34 Jonas Johansson 0-5-1 in 7 GP, 3.79 GAA, .884 SV%, 0 SO

35 Linus Ullmark 5-4-2 in 12 GP, 2.43 GAA, .919 SV%, 0 SO

40 Carter Hutton 1-9-1 in 11 GP, 3.43 GAA, .884 SV%, 0 SO

By Nick Lanciani

I have a degree in communication and yet I cannot find the words for this bio. Anyway, I write stuff on Down the Frozen River, make/appear on podcasts, used to write stuff for Couch Guy Sports and apply to jobs for a living when I'm not painting something cool to distract myself from my unemployment.