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NHL Nick's Net

Coyle & DeBrusk lift B’s over Sabres in shootout, 3-2

Charlie Coyle and Jake DeBrusk had the only shootout goals as the Boston Bruins defeated the Buffalo Sabres, 3-2, at TD Garden on Tuesday night.

Jeremy Swayman (3-1-0, 2.21 goals-against average, .926 save percentage in four games played) made 21 saves on 23 shots faced in the win for Boston.

Buffalo goaltender, Linus Ullmark (9-6-3, 2.63 goals-against average, .917 save percentage in 20 games played) made three saves on three shots against prior to exiting the game early in the first period due to an undisclosed injury.

Dustin Tokarski (0-4-2, 3.55 goals-against average, .905 save percentage in six games played) replaced Ullmark and stopped 29 out of 31 shots faced in the shootout loss for the Sabres.

The Bruins improved to 22-12-6 (50 points) on the season and remained in 4th place in the MassMutual NHL East Division, while the Sabres fell to 10-26-6 (26 points) overall and stuck in last place in the division.

The B’s are now 3-0-0 against Buffalo this season.

Boston was without Ondrej Kase (upper body), Tuukka Rask (upper body), John Moore (hip), Brandon Carlo (upper body), Trent Frederic (non-COVID protocol related illness), Matt Grzelcyk (upper body) and Jaroslav Halak (COVID protocol) on Tuesday.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, informer reporters after morning skate that Rask practiced with the team on Tuesday morning and is expected to return on Thursday against the New York Islanders.

Meanwhile, Frederic skated on Tuesday and could be available on Thursday.

Charlie McAvoy and new acquisition, Curtis Lazar, were game-time decisions and in the lineup on Tuesday night against Buffalo.

Kevan Miller also returned to action after missing Sunday’s, 8-1, loss to the Washington Capitals.

After Sunday’s loss, Bruins General Manager, Don Sweeney, traded a 2022 3rd round pick to the Ottawa Senators for defender, Mike Reilly. Hours later, the Bruins dealt Anders Bjork and a 2021 2nd round pick to Buffalo for Taylor Hall and Lazar.

All three new Bruins members were in the lineup against the Sabres on Tuesday, as Cassidy reunited his regular first line centered by Patrice Bergeron and flanked by Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak on the wings.

Hall suited up on the second line left wing with David Krejci at center and Craig Smith on the right wing in his 700th career NHL game.

Coyle centered the third line with Nick Ritchie on his left and DeBrusk on his right, while Lazar was slotted into the fourth line center role with Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner on his wings.

On defense, McAvoy was paired with Jeremy Lauzon on the first defensive pairing, while Reilly suited up alongside Miller.

Jarred Tinordi took part in his 100th career NHL game alongside Connor Clifton on the third pairing.

Boston’s long list of healthy scratches, taxi squad members and injured players included Frederic, Zach Senyshyn, Carlo, Moore, Kase, Rask, Halak, Steven Kampfer, Grzelcyk, Jack Ahcan, Jakub Zboril, Callum Booth, Anton Blidh and Karson Kuhlman.

B’s newcomers Reilly, Lazar and Hall will wear No.’s 6, 20 and 71 respectively.

Former Bruin defender, Colin Miller (4) blasted a one-timer from the point with Bjork screening Swayman– beating the Boston netminder and hitting the twine in the process to make it a, 1-0, game at 1:52 of the first period for the Sabres.

Dylan Cozens (4) and Bjork (4) recorded the assists on Miller’s goal as Buffalo jumped out with the first lead of the night.

About five minutes into the action, however, Tokarski replaced Ullmark after Ullmark made a save on a shot from the point by Reilly then appeared to be in discomfort while getting up.

Midway through the first period, Krejci (3) pocketed a rebound on a shot by Lauzon from the point to tie things up, 1-1, at 13:20.

Lauzon (5) and Smith (15) tallied the assists on Krejci’s goal as the Bruins surged in momentum, but not for long.

Ritchie boarded Rasmus Dahlin at 14:32 and presented Buffalo with the night’s first power play.

Shortly after making the kill on Ritchie’s minor, DeBrusk cut a rut to the penalty box for hooking Sam Reinhart at 16:51.

The Sabres earned an abbreviated 5-on-3 advantage when Lazar caught former teammate, Tage Thompson, with a high stick at 18:23 for his first penalty of the season in just his 34th game of the 2020-21 56-game regular season.

Buffalo did not convert on the advantage, however.

Entering the first intermission, the score was tied, 1-1, despite the Bruins outshooting the Sabres, 11-5, in shots on goal.

Boston held the advantage in blocked shots (6-4), takeaways (3-2) and hits (7-6), while Buffalo led in giveaways (4-3).

Both teams were 50-50 in faceoff win percentage, while the Sabres were 0/3 on the power play and the Bruins had yet to see any action on the skater advantage heading into the middle frame.

Ritchie dropped the gloves with Matt Irwin at 2:46 of the second period in what was Boston’s 11th fight of the season and first since Wagner fought Brenden Dillon on April 11th against Washington.

Smith (9) sent a loose puck past Tokarski’s stick side off of a botched pass that was broken up by a Sabres defender at 5:29 of the second period and the Bruins took their first lead of the night, 2-1.

The goal was unassisted, though Hall had entered the zone and intended a pass for Krejci through the slot, but Smith was in the right place at the right time after Buffalo had inadvertently knocked the rubber biscuit to his blade.

Moments later, Miller fought Thompson in the second scrap of the night after Miller caught Rasmus Asplund with a bit of a high hit in Boston’s defensive zone.

Miller and Thompson received fighting majors in what was the 12th fight of the season for the B’s at 9:14 of the second period.

Late in the period, Irwin was called for holding, but Boston couldn’t muster anything on the power play at 16:29.

Through 40 minutes of action, the Bruins led the Sabres, 2-1, on the scoreboard and, 24-12, in shots on goal, including a, 13-7, advantage in the second period alone.

The B’s held the advantage in blocked shots (11-9) and faceoff win% (53-48), while Buffalo led in giveaways (9-6) and hits (18-16).

Both teams had seven takeaways, while the Sabres remained 0/3 and the Bruins were 0/1 on the power play entering the second intermission.

Dahlin (4) tied the game midway through the third period with a shot from the point that took a wacky bounce off the ice in front of Swayman and might have deflected off of the Bruins netminder’s blocker into the twine.

Henri Jokiharju (4) and Jeff Skinner (4) had the assists on Dahlin’s goal and the game was tied, 2-2, at 11:53 of the third period.

There were no more goals scored, nor any penalties called in the final frame of regulation as the two sides needed overtime, at least, to determine a winner.

With the scoreboard reading, 2-2, the Bruins led the Sabres in shots on goal, 31-22, despite Buffalo outshooting Boston, 10-7, in the third period alone.

The Sabres led in takeaways (11-10), giveaways (14-9) and hits (27-25) entering overtime, while the B’s led in faceoff win% (54-46).

Both teams had 16 blocked shots each, while Buffalo remained 0/3 and Boston remained 0/1 on the power play.

Sabres interim head coach, Dom Granato, elected to start Casey Mittelstadt, Skinner and Dahlin in the overtime period, while Cassidy countered with Bergeron, Marchand and McAvoy to begin the 3-on-3 action.

Cozens thought he had scored a last minute overtime goal, but the ref waved it off immediately and a quick review confirmed that the Sabres forward had batted the puck out of mid-air with a high stick over the crossbar.

The game went on with end-to-end action, but neither team could score as Hall made a last second defensive effort to breakup a play for Buffalo and was tripped by Mittelstadt in the process.

Though Mittelstadt was charged with a minor infraction at 5:00 of the overtime period, Boston would not get another power play in the action as the game was headed to a shootout with the score still tied, 2-2.

The Bruins finished the night leading in shots on goal, 34-23, including a, 3-1, advantage in overtime alone.

Meanwhile, the Sabres wrapped up Tuesday night’s game action leading in giveaways (14-9) and hits (27-26) as both teams had 16 blocked shots aside.

Buffalo finished 0/3 on the skater advantage and Boston went 0/1.

Granato elected to send Victor Olofsson out to lead the shootout, but Olofsson was denied by Swayman with a glove save.

Coyle countered with a shot off of Tokarski’s stick paddle and through the Sabres goaltender’s five-hole to give Boston a, 1-0, advantage in the best-of-three shootout.

Thompson skated in to take the second shot for Buffalo, but was turned aside with another routine glove save for Swayman.

DeBrusk skated down the ice with a chance to win it for Boston and lobbed a shot top-shelf over Tokarski’s blocker to give the Bruins the, 2-0, advantage in the shootout and secure the, 3-2, win for the B’s on the final scoreboard.

Boston improved to 4-2 in shootouts and 7-6 past regulation this season, while Buffalo fell to 3-3 in shootouts and 3-7 past 60 minutes.

The Bruins also improved to 8-8-3 (5-6-1 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal, 6-4-2 (3-3-2 at home) when tied after the first period and 13-0-2 (8-0-2 at home) when leading after two periods this season.

The Sabres dropped to 5-6-4 (3-5-1 on the road) when scoring the game’s first goal, 4-8-2 (2-4-1 on the road) when tied after the first period and 1-22-1 (0-10-0 on the road) when trailing after two periods this season.

The Bruins take on the New York Islanders on Thursday and Friday before wrapping up their five-game homestand (1-1-0) against the Washington Capitals on Sunday (April 18th).

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NHL Nick's Net

Smith tops Bruins comeback, 3-2, against Sabres

The Boston Bruins extended the Buffalo Sabres’ current losing streak to 17 games after Craig Smith capped a, 3-2, comeback with his game-winning goal in the third period Saturday afternoon at TD Garden.

Dan Vladar (2-0-0, 1.51 goals-against average, .952 save percentage in two games played) turned aside 25 out of 27 shots against for a .926 save percentage in the win for the Bruins.

Sabres goaltender, Linus Ullmark (5-5-2, 2.49 goals-against average, .918 save percentage in 13 games played), returned from injury and made 33 saves on 36 shots faced for a .917 save percentage in the loss.

Boston improved to 17-8-5 (39 points) on the season and remained in command of 4th place in the MassMutual NHL East Division, while Buffalo fell to 6-23-4 (16 points) and stuck in last place in the division.

The B’s improved to 2-0-0 against the Sabres this season and 8-3-2 at home in 2020-21.

The Bruins were without the services of Ondrej Kase (upper body), Kevan Miller (knee), Brandon Carlo (upper body), John Moore (hip), Tuukka Rask (upper body), Karson Kuhlman (undisclosed), Sean Kuraly (COVID protocol), Jake DeBrusk (COVID protocol) and Brad Marchand (COVID protocol) on Saturday afternoon.

Kase missed his 28th game this season due to an injury that he sustained on Jan. 16th in New Jersey. Though he is skating before practice, there is no timetable for his return.

Miller and Carlo have been skating as well.

Moore underwent a hip arthroscopy and labral repair on March 22nd in New York City and will miss the rest of the season as recovery time is expected to be five to six months.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, ruled Rask out for the weekend due to a lingering injury that was re-aggravated in Thursday night’s, 4-3, overtime loss to the New York Islanders.

With Kuhlman awaiting results of an MRI after blocking a shot in the third period against the Islanders on Thursday night and Marchand entering COVID protocol, Zach Senyshyn returned to action for Boston for the first time since missing the last five games with an upper body injury.

Trent Frederic suited up on the first line with Bruins captain, Patrice Bergeron, at center and David Pastrnak on right wing.

Cassidy left his second line intact while Senyshyn was inserted on the right side of the third line with Anders Bjork at left wing and Charlie Coyle sporting an “A” at center in light of Marchand’s absence.

Greg McKegg slid over to the left side of the fourth line while Jack Studnicka centered the line and Chris Wagner remained at right wing.

On defense, Cassidy made one change, replacing Jarred Tinordi with Jeremy Lauzon on the third pairing alongside Steven Kampfer.

Lauzon made his return to the lineup for the first time since being injured in the 2021 NHL Outdoors matchup against the Philadelphia Flyers at Lake Tahoe on Feb. 21st. He missed 13 games between his 34-second shift outdoors and Saturday afternoon.

Jaroslav Halak served as Vladar’s backup on Saturday and is expected to get the start on Sunday against New Jersey.

Boston’s long list of healthy scratches, injured players, COVID protocol and taxi squad members on Saturday afternoon included Carlo, Moore, Kase, Rask, Kuraly, Marchand, DeBrusk, Tinordi, Miller, Jack Ahcan and Kuhlman.

Callum Booth was reassigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL) from Boston’s taxi squad on Saturday.

Connor Clifton opened the game’s action with an elbowing infraction against Sabres forward, Jeff Skinner, at 1:16 of the first period.

Less than a minute into the ensuing power play, Buffalo capitalized on a giveaway when Vladar misplayed the puck and sent a pass right to Sam Reinhart’s tape from the trapezoid.

Reinhart (12) cut to the front of the empty net while Vladar chased the play and scored a power-play goal to give the Sabres a, 1-0, lead at 2:01 of the first period.

Reinhart’s goal was unassisted.

About a couple minutes later, Brandon Montour tripped Senyshyn and presented the Bruins with their first power play of the afternoon.

Boston did not convert on the resulting skater advantage, however.

Late in the period, Casey Mittelstadt hooked Pastrnak at 14:59 and Pastrnak tripped Dylan Cozens at 18:54, but neither team was successful on the resulting special teams action.

Entering the first intermission, the Sabres led, 1-0, on the scoreboard, despite trailing Boston in shots on goal, 13-10.

The B’s led in blocked shots (4-2), takeaways (4-1), giveaways (4-2), hits (8-6) and faceoff win percentage (63-38).

Buffalo was 1/2 and Boston was 0/2 on the power play heading into the middle frame.

Coyle caught Skinner with a high stick midway through the second period and presented the Sabres with a power play at 7:15, but Buffalo couldn’t score on the resulting advantage.

Moments later, Matt Grzelcyk (2) skated along the blue line in the attacking zone and fired a wrist shot from the high slot– beating Ullmark on the glove side, while Coyle screened the Sabres netminder in front of the crease.

Pastrnak (13) and Bergeron (16) tallied the assists on Grzelcyk’s goal as the Bruins tied the game, 1-1, at 11:41 of the second period.

With the secondary assist on the goal, Bergeron pulled to within three points of tying Rick Middleton for the fourth most in a B’s uniform in franchise history. Bergeron currently has 895 career points with Boston, while Middleton had 898.

The game wasn’t tied for long before Kyle Okposo (2) pocketed a rebound into the twine for his second goal of the season in as many games against the Bruins this season.

Henri Jokiharju (2) and Rasmus Dahlin (11) had the assists on Okposo’s goal as the Sabres pulled ahead, 2-1, at 14:12.

Less than a minute later, Jean-Sebastien Dea caught Coyle with a high stick and was sent to the penalty box with a minor infraction at 15:00 of the second period.

Boston failed to convert on the ensuing power play opportunity.

Through 40 minutes of action at TD Garden on Saturday afternoon, the Sabres led, 2-1, on the scoreboard and, 24-21, in shots on goal, including a, 14-8, advantage in the second period alone.

The Bruins led in takeaways (5-2), giveaways (8-3), hits (16-10) and faceoff win% (55-45), while both teams had seven blocked shots aside.

Buffalo was 1/3 on the power play, while Boston was 0/3 on the skater advantage entering the second intermission.

Early in the third period, Nick Ritchie (9) pocketed a loose puck from the doorstep behind Ullmark after Charlie McAvoy impressed the fans in attendance with an incredible display of skill– skating around the attacking zone prior to setting up Ritchie for the goal.

McAvoy (17) and Grzelcyk (9) notched the assists on Ritchie’s goal as the Bruins tied the game, 2-2, at 5:22 of the final frame.

Moments later, Montour hooked Smith and was sent to the sin bin at 9:38, but the B’s couldn’t muster anything on the resulting power play.

Late in the period, Smith (6) buried a short pass from David Krejci in the low slot over Ullmark’s glove side to give Boston their first lead of the night, 3-2.

Krejci (17) and Ritchie (8) tallied the assists on Smith’s goal at 16:10 of the third period as the Bruins completed the comeback and held onto the victory at the final horn after Rasmus Ristolainen picked up a goaltender interference minor at 19:35.

Sabres interim head coach, Dom Granato, pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker with 1:43 remaining, used his timeout after a stoppage with 40 seconds left and pulled his netminder again to even things up 5-on-5 while Ristolainen was in the box in the dying seconds, but Buffalo was no match for Boston in the end.

The Bruins had won, 3-2, and finished the afternoon leading in shots on goal, 36-27, incluidng a, 15-3, advantage in the third period alone.

Buffalo finished the game leading in blocked shots (11-9), while Boston wrapped up the afternoon leading in hits (23-15) and faceoff win% (57-44).

Both teams finished with eight giveaways each, while the Sabres went 1/3 on the skater advantage and the B’s finished 0/5 on the power play.

Vladar became the eighth goaltender in franchise history to win each of his first two career appearances with the Bruins, joining Rask (2007-08), Tim Thomas (2002-03), Blaine Lacher (1994-95), Mike Moffat (1981-82), John Adams (1972-73), Andre Gill (1967-68) and Frank Brimsek (1938-39) in doing so.

Buffalo, meanwhile, suffered their 17th consecutive loss, which tied the second-most consecutive losses in National Hockey League history, joining the 1974-75 Washington Capitals and 1992-93 San Jose Sharks in trailing the 2003-04 Pittsburgh Penguins for the most consecutive losses in a row (18) in NHL history.

The Sabres face the Philadelphia Flyers at home on Monday, March 29th and look to avoid tying the 2003-04 Penguins for the most consecutive losses.

Cassidy told reporters after the game that Bruins assistant coach Kevin Dean was not behind the bench on Saturday due to coming in close contact with someone that tested positive for COVID-19.

Dean will not be joining his colleagues behind the bench on Sunday, as well.

Boston improved to 5-5-2 (2-3-0 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal this season, while Buffalo fell to 4-4-2 (3-4-1 on the road) when scoring the game’s first goal this season in the process.

The B’s also improved to 3-5-2 (1-1-0 at home) when trailing after the first period and 3-4-1 (2-2-0 at home) when trailing after two periods this season.

The Sabres dropped to 2-3-2 (2-3-1 on the road) when leading after one period and 4-1-2 (3-1-1 on the road) when leading after two periods in 2020-21.

The Bruins welcome the New Jersey Devils on Sunday (5:30 p.m. ET puck drop) before closing out the month of March against the Devils on Tuesday. Boston begins April with a pair of home games against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Boston is 1-0-1 in their current seven-game homestand.

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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

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NHL Nick's Net Numbers Game

Look To The Rafters: Buffalo Sabres (Part II)

In the early days of DTFR, we made an educated guess as to who each team might honor in the future regarding retired jersey numbers. Since then, the Vegas Golden Knights came into existence and more than a few jersey numbers went out of circulation across the league. 

It’s time for an update and a look at who the Buffalo Sabres might honor by hanging their name and number from the rafters of KeyBank Center someday.

Buffalo Sabres Current Retired Numbers

2 Tim Horton

7 Rick Martin

11 Gilbert Perreault

14 Rene Robert

16 Pat Lafontaine

18 Danny Gare

39 Dominik Hasek

Did Anything Change In The Last Five Years?

No! Not a thing and that’s a crime according to this post. Luckily for the Sabres, we have a few suggestions to get them out of retired jersey number jail.

Possible Numbers to Retire Someday

9 Jack Eichel

Eichel had yet to lace up his skates and take to the ice in a Sabres sweater when the first “Look to the Rafters” for Buffalo was written in Aug. 2015. Since then, he wore No. 15 when he made his NHL debut, then changed his number to the more familiar No. 9 ahead of last season (2018-19).

In 354 career games (all with the Sabres), Eichel has 337 points (137 goals, 200 assists). He had back-to-back seasons of at least 55 points in his rookie and sophomore campaigns, then improved to 60 or more points in the last three seasons (64 points in 67 games in 2017-18, 82 points in 77 games in 2018-19 and 78 points in 68 games this season).

He’s the face of the franchise with the most talent since (dare I say it?) Alexander Mogilny. Not goaltending talent related, of course.

Anyway, Eichel is the real deal and just needs, well, a lot more support to get the Sabres back to the top of the regular season standings, let alone tip-top playoff performance– something Eichel has yet to see, by the way, in his NHL career.

He’s five seasons into playing hockey in the best league in the world and he has not even had a shift on the ice in the postseason because his team has missed the playoffs since before he was drafted 2nd overall in 2015.

That said, he’s a certified star and he’s signed long-term because he’s loyal to the fan base in the place where winter never stops. No. 9 is sure to be hanging in the rafters in Buffalo some number of years from now and it just might reverse the Modano Curse (well, technically, the “Brett Hull’s Foot Was In The Crease” Curse).

26 Thomas Vanek

Are we sure Vanek didn’t actually play somewhere this season? Buffalo’s first round selection (5th overall) in 2003, the Vienna, Austria native formally announced his retirement from professional hockey on Feb. 25th this year.

Vanek amassed 373-416–789 totals in 1,029 career NHL games for the Sabres, New York Islanders, Montreal Canadiens, Minnesota Wild, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Vancouver Canucks, Columbus Blue Jackets and Red Wings in one final stint from 2005-19 across 14 NHL seasons.

He spent parts of nine seasons with Buffalo and had 254 goals and 243 assists (497 points) in 598 games as a Sabre in that span.

After being dealt to the Islanders early in the 2013-14 season, Vanek became a Swiss Army knife of sorts and an NHL journeyman that went on to collect a lot of different jerseys in his career.

Anyway, whereas Danny Briere and Chris Drury didn’t last long in Buffalo and Ryan Miller had the crease, as well as the love and affection of being a goaltender for many years as a Sabre, Vanek was the one constant in a time of bliss and turmoil for the franchise.

The success of the 2000s that brought them oh so close, but not close enough as the Sabres couldn’t get past the Eastern Conference Final in 2006 or 2007, ultimately led to their last playoff appearance in 2011.

Since then, the team has gone through coaches, general managers and even a change in ownership. As the Vanek Era came to a close in Buffalo, the precursor to the Eichel Era was ushered in.

For now, Vanek’s legacy remains large and in focus until Eichel and whoever else can lead the Sabres to rise above and land the franchise its first Stanley Cup championship. As such, perhaps it’s time to consider setting aside number– oops, just kidding, you let Rasmus Dahlin wear it now.

No, Dahlin wasn’t included in this list as he only just got done with his sophomore season and was hampered by injuries that limited him to 59 games out of the team’s 69-game shortened regular season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dahlin had 9-35–44 totals in 82 games in his rookie year (2018-19), which is respectable for a durable NHL defender in this day and age. He had 4-36–40 totals in 59 games this season and was on pace for about 56 points had the regular season seen its conclusion.

Though, admittedly, 16 points in 13 games for a defender seems unlikely– especially considering the number of losses that piled up for Buffalo from February to the end of the season in March.

We’ll see how Dahlin bounces back (and the rest of the Sabres for that matter), then consider changing No. 26’s honor from Vanek to Dahlin if/when it seems appropriate.

30 Ryan Miller

Miller won the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goaltender in the 2009-10 season while with the Sabres– that same year he and the rest of Team USA came a goal shy of upsetting the hockey world and winning gold at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be because Sidney Crosby exists and all that, but hey, if that one moment of defeat is the only thing that defines Miller’s greatest upset while associated with Buffalo, then I think that’s something he can…

Well, as a goalie, one never really “gets over” the “one that got away” goal.

Nevertheless, Miller spent parts of 11 seasons with the Sabres and amassed a 284-186-57 record in 540 games played wearing a Buffalo sweater from the 2002-03 season through part of the 2013-14 season. He had a 2.58 goals against average and a .916 save percentage, as well as 28 shutouts in that span in 31,659 minutes as a Sabre.

He went on to have a short tenure with the St. Louis Blues after the Sabres packaged him to St. Louis, before signing with the Vancouver Canucks and later Anaheim Ducks in free agency. After six seasons in Vancouver and Anaheim (split evenly in half between the two cities), Miller appears at ease and ready to retire from the NHL this offseason.

He’s the winningest American goaltender in NHL history with 387 wins in 780 career NHL games from the 2002-03 season through 2019-20, so that, on top of his longevity as a Sabre should be enough reason to hang his number alongside Dominik Hasek’s in the rafters of KeyBank Center.

81 Miroslav Satan

Satan spent parts eight seasons with the Sabres despite what most fans might think is an eternal hell in Buffalo these days.

From part of the 1996-97 season through the 2003-04 season, Satan scored 224 goals and had 232 assists for 456 points in 578 games as a Sabre. That’s pretty, pretty good.

There’s something to say for consistency over a long period of time, say, almost a decade with one organization before the former Edmonton Oiler in his days before Buffalo departed for the New York Islanders from 2005-06 through 2007-08 before making his way around with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2008-09 and Boston Bruins for part of the 2009-10 season and 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs run that intertwined with the Sabres in Boston and Buffalo’s 2010 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal matchup.

Anyway, Satan was a consistent player in his tenure with the Sabres and an icon– not just because of the 1990s rebrand, but later on because of his leadership as the General Manager of Team Europe at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

It’s a shame Satan and Mogilny never overlapped in Buffalo, because, boy, what magic that could’ve been.

89 Alexander Mogilny

If the Hockey Hall of Fame is going to keep snubbing Mogilny, then the least the Pegulas can do to help his case for Hall of Fame recognition would be to formally retire his No. 89.

Though he only spent six seasons in Buffalo from 1989-95, Mogilny scored 444 points (211 goals, 233 assists) in 381 games. He had more points per game with the Sabres (1.17 points per game) than with any other team he played for in their respective tenure (.987 points per game with the Vancouver Canucks, .942 points per game with the New Jersey Devils and .943 points per game with the Toronto Maple Leafs).

He’s a legend in his own right and it’s only right that the Sabres do him right.

Don’t just put the number aside and never use it– retire it. Give the 2002-03 Lady Byng Memorial Trophy winner and 2000 Stanley Cup champion that scored 1,032 points in 990 career NHL games in 16 seasons with Buffalo, Vancouver, New Jersey and Toronto the respect he deserves.

Sabres fans still– and always will– love him.

Final Thoughts

Despite not having many players emerge from the last time we did this five years ago as potential “jersey retirement ceremony worthy” quality, the Sabres have quite a few candidates from their recent or later past to consider honoring before more time is wasted.

There’s no shame in admitting that it might be time to play a little catchup as now is the perfect time to mix in a little nostalgia with the 50th anniversary season having passed, Miller riding off into the sunset with an insurmountable love for Buffalo still and everything else that could be written as a storybook ending despite the team on the ice needing some work to get back into the playoff hunt.

Plus it’d be great PR in the face of whatever’s up with the power struggle that may or may not be in the front office.

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NHL Nick's Net

Three ways to improve the NHL All Star Game

Let’s face it, most people over the age of 18 don’t care for the NHL’s annual All Star Game, but it’s still an important part of the sport nonetheless.

For starters, the host city is provided with a boost in tourism for a weekend in January, while the local community receives more attention and support from the league in terms of growing the game for the duration leading up to that weekend and beyond– making it more accessible, more affordable and more inclusive, ideally.

It’s because of the good public relations and the charitable efforts made that the All Star Game should never go away.

That said, it could use some improvements to try to bring back the casual onlookers of the sport or even the diehards that tune out for the night and would rather watch paint dry.

Here’s three ways to try to bring more eyes to the game and at the very least boost its ratings on a weekend when not much else is happening to distract viewers from that season’s best NHLers having a little fun (how dare they).

Make it like the 2016 World Cup of Hockey

Want to further exemplify how the game is continuing to evolve, while getting younger and faster? Look no further than introducing a 23 and under team inspired by the 2016 World Cup of Hockey’s Team North America to the 3-on-3 format of the All Star Game!

Simply go back to naming teams after players and having them select their teammates and/or opponents, then pit the 23-year-olds and younger against the 30-year-olds and older and see if Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews and Rasmus Dahlin can beat Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin (assuming he wouldn’t skip the game) and John Carlson.

Want an added challenge? Bring back the Young Stars Game for players ranging in age from 18 to 20 and have them take on each other in an East vs. West format or simply throw them into the fire with the 23 and under team, 24 to 29-year-old team and 30 and older team (or something like that).

But seriously, either adopt the World Cup of Hockey teams for a 3-on-3 battle, mix it up with a young vs. old mentality or just pick who goes to the All Star Game and let them create their teams.

Imagine a team solely comprised of goaltenders. Now that’s worth tuning in for.

Better yet, let’s have the Elite Women’s team take on NHLers in a Billie Jean King vs. Bobby Riggs inspired matchup or have Marie-Philip Poulin lace up her skates alongside Crosby, while Hilary Knight suits up with Matthews and unleash the fury that is all of Hockey Canada and USA Hockey coming together for an ultimate 3-on-3 battle.

Make it a weekend of skills

If most fans over the age of 18 are tuning in for All Star weekend festivities just to see who’s the fastest skater, who has the hardest shot, what kind of crazy relay race Gatorade has come up this year or the all-new addition of a 3-on-3 women’s game to the skills competition, then why not make it a two-night main event?

The Hardest Shot competition, for example, wouldn’t get to be featured on both nights with the possibility of players altering their sticks within legal manners to try to get more speed on their shot– unless you wanted to add something like that as a curveball.

If you don’t want to expand the number of events, then get creative and allow a little tampering for players to study what they did on the first night, learn what their competition did better and try to beat that on the second night.

Alternatively, the league could just have have a mixture of traditional skills (Hardest Shot, Fastest Skater, Accuracy Shooting) and newer competitions (Shooting Stars, Save Streak, Elite Women’s 3-on-3 game) spread out over two nights with the return of the Breakaway Challenge, Skills Challenge Relay, Premier Passer, Puck Control Relay, Elimination Shootout and whatever you can come with to split each night with six different events.

Bring back the Eastern Conference vs. Western Conference format or have the divisions compete against each other and award points to the winners of each event.

The squad with the most points at the end of the two-night challenge wins bonus money or something.

Throw in an extra $50,000 for a charity that the winning team was playing for and you’ve got yourself even more good PR.

Don’t announce the All Star rosters until player introductions

Remember the outrage about Team USA’s 2010 Winter Games roster after it was announced immediately following the 2010 Winter Classic at Fenway Park?

This would be like that, but with more people than ever before on Hockey Twitter™ completely freaking out about how Jack Johnson was named to the All Star Game.

Think of the controversy that could be drummed up in real-time without allowing anyone to have about a month to whine about All Star snubs or substitutions.

Even better, it might force players to go to the game instead of using the built-in time off from the bye week as an excuse to skip out on something that’s made for fans to get a chance to see who they might otherwise not see regularly.

(So the NHLPA’s never going to agree to this idea from the start, because time off matters.)

Sure the schedule currently lets every market see players from out of town, but the novelty of the All Star Game has always been that the host city and its fans (or anyone that may have traveled from out of town to the region) can get to see the stars of the game without the barriers of dynamic ticket pricing getting in the way (in theory) for a family of four that might not be able to afford a regular matchup against one of the more superstar loaded teams.

This idea’s the hardest one to pull off given how well secrets are kept in the league (they’re not), as well as due to the fact that people would know by warmups who’s made the team and tweet about it, plus the fact that All Star merchandise with any player’s likeness would still need to be made ahead of time to sell at just the right time leading up to the game and thereafter (which could get leaked).

New jerseys and future Winter Classic venues and teams are constantly being disclosed before official announcements or reveals, which can sometimes take the fun away from the moment when it actually happens or– more often– only further stew angry complaints on social media until fans see it on the ice.

But just think, what if we all agreed to show up to Enterprise Center or watch the 2020 All Star Game on TV without knowing who’s in it only to find out that Brad Marchand was left off the team even though he’s currently 6th in league scoring (with 64 points– 10 points fewer than league leader, McDavid) or that anyone from the Detroit Red Wings or New Jersey Devils even made the team despite the former being on track for the worst regular season since the 2016-17 Colorado Avalanche?

Imagine the drama– then watch them play a 3-on-3 tournament!

Oh yeah, this also assumes that you’d somehow not spoil the rosters with the Skills Competition, but we can work those details out at a later time.

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NHL Nick's Net

DeBrusk scores two in Boston’s, 3-2, win over Buffalo

Jake DeBrusk scored a pair of power play goals 18 seconds apart in the Boston Bruins’, 3-2, victory over the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden on Sunday night.

Tuukka Rask (15-4-5 record, 2.31 goals against average, .923 save percentage in 24 games played) made 24 saves on 26 shots against (.923 SV%) in the win for the Bruins.

Sabres goaltender, Linus Ullmark (11-10-3, 2.80 GAA, .913 SV% in 24 games played) stopped 19 out of 22 shots faced for an .864 SV% in the loss.

Boston improved to 24-7-9 (57 points) overall and remained in command of the Atlantic Division, while Buffalo fell to 17-16-7 (41 points) and remained in 6th place in the Atlantic.

The B’s also improved to 14-1-8 at home on the season.

The Bruins were without the services of Kevan Miller (knee), Karson Kuhlman (fractured tibia), Torey Krug (undisclosed) and Charlie McAvoy (undisclosed) on Sunday.

Boston’s head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made a couple minor changes to his lineup from Friday night’s, 3-0, shutout in Buffalo.

Brett Ritchie returned to the lineup and was reunited with Anders Bjork and Charlie Coyle on the third line, while Sean Kuraly returned to his role as the fourth line center with Joakim Nordstrom on his left wing and Chris Wagner on his right wing.

Par Lindholm joined David Backes in the press box for the B’s as their only healthy scratches against the Sabres on Sunday.

Boston kicked things off with eight skaters on the ice for a too many skaters on the ice minor penalty at 2:50 of the first period– yielding the game’s first power play to Buffalo.

The Sabres weren’t able to convert on the ensuing legal skater advantage.

Midway through the opening frame, David Pastrnak (29) scored on a one-timer after Patrice Bergeron fed Brad Marchand with a stretch pass through the neutral zone and the two first line wingers entered the attacking zone on a 2-on-1.

Marchand (39) and Bergeron (18) had the assists on Pastrnak’s goal as the Bruins took the, 1-0, lead at 12:39 of the first period.

Moments later, Wagner tripped Sabres blue liner, Brandon Montour, and was assessed a minor infraction at 16:35. Buffalo didn’t score on their second power play of the night.

Entering the first intermission, the Bruins led the Sabres, 1-0, on the scoreboard, despite trailing in shots on goal, 7-2.

Boston held the advantage in blocked shots (9-3), while Buffalo led in giveaways (4-3), hits (16-7) and faceoff win percentage (67-33).

Both teams had two takeaways aside, while the Sabres were 0/2 on the only skater advantages of the period.

Just 15 seconds into the middle frame, Henri Jokiharju tripped Marchand and presented the Bruins with their first power play of the night.

Boston’s power play was powerless as Buffalo’s penalty kill shifted momentum towards the Sabres– culminating in a goal early in the second period.

Rasmus Ristolainen (4) flung a shot at the net that Rask saved, but Zdeno Chara bopped the puck off his own goaltender and into the twine as the puck squibbed through the Bruins netminder at 6:37 of the second period.

Sam Reinhart (19) and Marcus Johansson (11) tallied the assists on Ristolainen’s goal as the Sabres tied the game, 1-1.

Midway through the second period, Jimmy Vesey sent the puck over the glass and out of play– yielding an automatic delay of game penalty at 11:02.

Boston’s power play continued to struggle once again and couldn’t score while Vesey was in the box.

A few minutes later, Evan Rodrigues was in the sin bin for tripping Steven Kampfer at 14:11, but the B’s didn’t convert on the ensuing skater advantage.

Shortly thereafter, the Bruins tweeted that their defender, Connor Clifton, wouldn’t return to the game after sustaining an upper body injury earlier in the action.

After 40 minutes of play in Boston, the Bruins and Sabres were tied, 1-1, on the scoreboard with Buffalo holding the advantage in shots on goal, 19-13.

The Sabres also led in takeaways (7-4) and hits (23-15), while the Bruins led in blocked shots (10-7), giveaways (8-5) and faceoff win% (52-49).

Buffalo went 0/2 on the power play through two periods, while Boston went 0/3 on the skater advantage entering the third period.

Early in the final frame of regulation, Johan Larsson took two penalties– one for tripping DeBrusk and another for hooking Marchand– at 1:23 of the third period and presented the Bruins with a 5-on-4 power play for 4:00.

While on the power play, Kampfer fired a shot from the point that DeBrusk (10) redirected past Ullmark while skating through the slot for his first power play goal of the night at 2:37.

Kampfer (1) and Pastrnak (29) notched the assists as Boston took the lead, 2-1.

Just 18 seconds later, DeBrusk (11) fired a shot from about a foot before the goal line along the boards and trickled the puck between Ullmark’s leg pad and the right post to give the B’s a two-goal lead.

David Krejci (20) and Kampfer (2) had the assists on DeBrusk’s second power play goal of the game and the Bruins led, 3-1, at 2:55 of the third period.

Less than three minutes later, Curtis Lazar (2) pounced on a loose puck in the crease while on a delayed penalty call against Boston and tapped the rubber biscuit into the net after Rask made the initial save.

Ristolainen (15) and Jack Eichel (28) tallied the assists on Lazar’s goal and the Sabres trailed, 3-2, at 5:08.

Late in the third period, Ritchie tripped Rasmus Dahlin, but the Sabres weren’t able to capitalize on their last power play of the night at 15:51.

With 2:27 remaining in regulation, Buffalo’s head coach, Ralph Krueger, pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker and used his timeout to drum up a plan to tie the game.

Things didn’t go as planned as Reinhart broke Brandon Carlo’s stick with a slash at 19:43, which left a bad taste in the Sabres’ mouths– especially Eichel’s, apparently, as the Buffalo captain was ticked off and exchanging words with an official until he received a misconduct and was sent to the showers with 17 seconds to spare in the game.

At the final horn, the Bruins had won, 3-2, despite finishing the night trailing the Sabres in shots on goal, 26-22.

Boston wrapped up Sunday’s action with the advantage in blocked shots (13-10), hits (28-25) and faceoff win% (51-49).

Meanwhile, both teams had 10 giveaways aside as the Sabres finished 0/3 on the skater advantage and the B’s went 2/6 on the power play.

The Bruins improved to 17-5-5 when scoring the game’s first goal this season, 15-3-1 when leading after the first period and 6-2-3 when tied after two periods this season.

Boston finishes the month of December (and 2019) in New Jersey on Tuesday afternoon against the Devils before kicking off 2020 with a two-game homestand against Columbus on Thursday and Edmonton on Saturday.

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NHL Nick's Net

Rask enters “Save of the Year” contention in Boston’s, 3-2, win over Buffalo

A pair of goals from Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak’s 20th goal of the season and one game-changing save from Tuukka Rask catapulted the Boston Bruins over the Buffalo Sabres, 3-2, at TD Garden on Thursday.

Rask (10-2-2 record, 2.05 goals against average, .931 save percentage in 14 games played) made a season-high 36 saves on 38 shots faced for a .947 SV% in the win for the B’s.

Buffalo goaltender, Linus Ullmark (4-5-1, 3.01 GAA, .910 SV% in 10 games played) turned aside 24 shots on 27 shots against for an .889 SV% in the loss.

The Bruins improved to 14-3-5 (33 points) and remained in command of the Atlantic Division, while the Sabres fell to 10-9-3 (23 points) and stuck in 4th place in the Atlantic as the Toronto Maple Leafs were in action in Arizona against the Coyotes (a win in any fashion for the Leafs would drop Buffalo to 5th in the Atlantic Division standings).

Boston is 8-0-4 at home this season in 12 games, which is the longest home point streak since the 1973-74 season. 

Meanwhile, Pastrnak is the fourth different player in Bruins history to reach the 20-goal mark in 22 or fewer games, becoming the fifth fastest behind Phil Esposito (20 goals in 18 games in 1973-74), Cam Neely (20 goals in 19 games in 1993-94), Herb Cain (20 goals in 20 games in 1943-44) and Esposito again (20 goals in 21 games in 1974-75).

The B’s are now on a two-game winning streak and have won three out of their last four games, while the Sabres dropped to 2-8-2 in their last 12 games.

One more, the Bruins were without the services of Kevan Miller (knee), John Moore (shoulder), Karson Kuhlman (fractured tibia), David Backes (upper body), Torey Krug (upper body) and Zach Senyshyn (lower body) on Thursday.

Re-joining the long list of injured B’s was Brett Ritchie (upper body), as announced by Boston head coach, Bruce Cassidy, earlier in the day prior to Thursday night’s matchup with the Sabres.

Ritchie’s infection was reaggravated and kept him out of his 7th game due to injury this season.

Patrice Bergeron was back in the lineup after missing the last two games with a lower body injury. He returned to his usual spot as the first line center with Marchand on his left wing and Pastrnak on his right wing.

Cassidy moved Charlie Coyle to the second line right wing with David Krejci resuming his role as the No. 2 center and Jake DeBrusk remaining on the left side.

Par Lindholm was left as the third line center with Anders Bjork on his left wing and Danton Heinen on his right wing.

Cassidy left his fourth line trio of Joakim Nordstrom, Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner alone, as well as his defensive pairings in the same shape as they’ve been with Krug out due to injury.

Steven Kampfer remained Boston’s only healthy scratch on Thursday.

Early in the period, Lindholm went down the tunnel with an injury after it appeared he might have been cut by a skate in a collision with Rasmus Asplund. He returned to the bench by the end of the period, but only played 20 seconds in his first shift of the night.

Lindholm later returned to the ice in the second period and resumed his usual duties.

Moments later, Kuraly tripped Buffalo’s Evan Rodrigues and was sent to the penalty box at 5:05 of the first period– yielding the game’s first power play to the Sabres.

Buffalo’s power play unit worked quickly and effectively as Rasmus Ristolainen (1) pocketed a rebound into the back of the net from right in the crease after Rask made the initial save.

Jack Eichel (13) and Victor Olofsson (9) tallied the assists on Ristolainen’s power play goal that made it, 1-0, Sabres at 5:25.

It was just the 6th time in 22 games that the Bruins allowed the game’s first goal.

What was more troubling for the B’s wasn’t that they were down early, but rather that they didn’t record their first shot on net until 12:11.

About a couple minutes later, Zdeno Chara fired a shot from the point that Marchand (14) tipped in from the low slot, tying the game, 1-1, on Boston’s 2nd shot of the night at 13:52.

Chara (5) and Pastrnak (16) had the assists on Marchand’s goal.

Less than a minute later, after a scrum in front of the net followed a puck frozen by a goaltender, Wagner dropped the gloves with Curtis Lazar in what was just Boston’s 3rd fight of the season (and first since Marchand fought Filip Hronek on Nov. 8th in Detroit).

Both players also received matching roughing minors at 14:14, resulting in no skater advantages.

Entering the first intermission, the score was tied, 1-1, despite the Sabres leading in shots on goal, 17-4.

Buffalo held the lead in takeaways (6-4) and hits (8-7), while Boston led in blocked shots (5-4) after one period.

The two teams had a pair of giveaways and were 50-50 in faceoff winning percentage.

Heading into the second period, Buffalo was 1/1 on the power play, while the B’s had yet to see any time on the skater advantage.

Buffalo’s 17 shots on goal in the first period were the 2nd most shots allowed in a period by Boston this season. The most shots against in one period for the Bruins thus far is 18 on Nov. 16th on home ice against the Washington Capitals.

Early in the middle frame, Matt Grzelcyk hooked Zemgus Girgensons and was sent to the box at 4:44 of the second period.

The Sabres didn’t convert on the resulting power play.

Midway through the period, Asplund held Krejci and was assessed with a minor at 13:15– presenting Boston with their first power play opportunity of the night.

It only took the Bruins 90 seconds to capitalize on the power play as Marchand (15) caught a rebound and slid the puck under Ullmark for the power play goal at 14:45.

Grzelcyk (5) and Heinen (6) had the assists on the goal as the B’s took their first lead of the night, 2-1.

Less than a minute later, Coyle took a trip to the sin bin for hooking Eichel at 15:16. Boston killed off the ensuing shorthanded bid with ease.

In the final minute of the second period, Ullmark denied DeBrusk with a sprawling leg pad save while DeBrusk entered the attacking zone on a breakaway, before crashing into the boards and heading right down the tunnel to the dressing room for a head start on the second intermission.

He returned for the third period without any issues.

After 40 minutes of action, the Bruins led, 2-1, on the scoreboard, but trailed the Sabres, 24-18, in shots on goal, despite having a, 14-7, shots on net advantage in the second period alone.

The B’s held the lead in blocked shots (10-9), hits (14-12) and faceoff win% (51-49), however, while Buffalo led in takeaways (10-6) and giveaways (8-4).

Heading into the third period, the Sabres were 1/3 on the power play and the Bruins were 1/1.

Jake McCabe opened up the final frame of regulation with a minor penalty for holding against Heinen 32 seconds into the third period.

While on the power play, Pastrnak (20) gathered a rebound and slipped the puck underneath Ullmark’s elevated leg pad and scored his 20th goal of the season– becoming the first NHL player to reach the 20-goal plateau this season.

Pastrnak’s power play goal was assisted by Heinen (7) and Bergeron (12) at 1:56 of the third period and the Bruins led, 3-1.

Less than a couple of minutes later, Nordstrom was sent to the box for tripping Rasmus Dahlin at 3:33.

Rodrigues thought he had a surefire power play goal for the Sabres as Buffalo pressured the Bruins into near submission, but Rask made a no-stick, inside of the blocker save, while diving across the crease.

Boston killed off Nordstrom’s minor as a result.

Midway through the third period, Brandon Montour (2) blasted a one-timer into the twine from the point, cutting Boston’s lead in half, 3-2, at 12:58.

Conor Sheary (3) and Dahlin (13) tallied the assists on Montour’s goal as the Sabres pressed, but couldn’t complete a third period comeback over the Bruins.

With 1:19 remaining in the game, Sabres head coach, Ralph Krueger, pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker, but couldn’t muster a 6-on-5 goal– even after using his timeout with 39.8 seconds left to drum up the perfect plan.

At the final horn, Boston sealed the deal on a, 3-2, victory over Buffalo– improving to 10-0-2 when leading after two periods in the process.

The Sabres finished the night leading in shots on goal (38-27) and giveaways (14-4), while the Bruins walked away with the advantage in blocked shots (17-11), hits (20-14) and faceoff win% (54-46).

Buffalo finished Thursday’s action 1/4 on the skater advantage as the B’s went 2/2 on the power play.

Boston finishes their two-game homestand (1-0-0) against the Minnesota Wild on Saturday.

The B’s close out November with back to back nights in Montreal (Nov. 26th) and Ottawa (Nov. 27th) before finishing the month at home against the New York Rangers in a Black Friday matinee on Nov. 29th.

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Podcasts

DTFR Podcast #177- And A Dollar Short

2020 Winter Classic sweater reviews, a standings update and Top-10 NHL power rankings.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple PodcastsStitcher and/or on Spotify. Support the show on Patreon.

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NHL Nick's Net Previews

Buffalo Sabres 2019-20 Season Preview

Buffalo Sabres

33-39-10, 76 points, 6th in the Atlantic Division

Longest active playoff drought, last playoff appearance was 2011

Additions: F Jean-Sebastien Dea, F Marcus Johansson, F Curtis Lazar, F Jimmy Vesey (acquired from NYR), D John Gilmour, D Henri Jokiharju (acquired from CHI), D Colin Miller (acquired from VGK), G Andrew Hammond

Subtractions: F Eric Cornel (signed with Rochester, AHL), F Kyle Criscuolo (signed with PHI), F Taylor Leier (signed with Rochester, AHL), F Sean Malone (signed with Rochester, AHL), F Matt Moulson (signed with Hershey, AHL), F Alexander Nylander (traded to CHI), F Danny O’Regan (signed with NYR), F Kevin Porter (signed with Rochester, AHL), D Jack Dougherty (signed with Belleville, AHL), D Brycen Martin (signed with Fort Wayne, ECHL), D Matt Tennyson (signed with NJD), G Scott Wedgewood (signed with TBL), G Adam Wilcox (signed with San Antonio, AHL)

Still Unsigned: F Jason Pominville

Re-signed: F Remi Elie, F Zemgus Girgensons, F Johan Larsson, F Evan Rodrigues, F C.J. Smith, D Jake McCabe, G Linus Ullmark

Offseason Analysis: The Buffalo Sabres are looking to be last season’s Carolina Hurricanes for the 2019-20 season and, in the process, end the current longest active playoff drought in the NHL.

Buffalo hasn’t been back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs since being ousted by the Philadelphia Flyers in seven games in their 2011 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal matchup.

The Sabres only have four forwards under contract after this season.

Of the remaining nine forwards currently under contract, three are pending-restricted free agents (Sam Reinhart, Evan Rodrigues and Casey Mittelstadt) and six are pending-unrestricted free agents (Vladimir Sobotka, Conor Sheary, Jimmy Vesey, Zemgus Girgensons, Johan Larsson and Scott Wilson).

Thankfully, new addition to their top-nine forwards– and likely to start the season on the first or second line– Marcus Johansson (13-17–30 totals in 58 games played) signed a two-year, $9.000 million ($4.500 million cap hit) contract in free agency after spending last season with the New Jersey Devils prior to being traded to the Boston Bruins at the trade deadline.

Sabres General Manager, Jason Botterill, reworked the defense through the acquisition of Colin Miller from the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for a 2021 2nd round pick (originally belonging to the St. Louis Blues) and a 2022 5th round pick.

Miller has three-years left at $3.875 million per season and is a quality top-six defender addition to the team facing the uncertainty after this season, whereby half of the current defenders on the roster are set to become free agents.

Buffalo has three pending-UFA defenders (Zach Bogosian, Marco Scandella and Casey Nelson) and one pending-RFA blue liner (Brandon Montour– acquired around last season’s deadline from the Anaheim Ducks).

With no cap room available currently and a tighter wallet thanks to Jeff Skinner’s eight-year, $72 million extension ($9.000 million cap hit), the Sabres are going to be hard pressed to try to keep the band together.

Thankfully, a little relief will come via the long-term injured reserve at the likely career-ending expense of Matt Hunwick and his ongoing neck condition that Hunwick sustained last season, missed the first two months because of and was limited to 14 games.

The 34-year-old defender’s $2.250 million cap hit will be relieved thanks to the LTIR option, but still Botterill will have to press on to utilize his best penny pinching calculator when it comes time to ice a full-time roster by puck drop next month.

Oh yeah and Linus Ullmark only has a year on his contract, so before anyone can get comfortable with what’s likely the foreseeable future in the crease for the Sabres…

While Botterill also brought in the likes of Vesey (17-18–35 totals in 81 games played) in a trade with the New York Rangers that saw Buffalo give up a 2021 3rd round pick and trading Alexander Nylander to the Chicago Blackhawks for Henri Jokiharju, there’s yet another new face behind the bench in upstate New York.

Ralph Krueger, the Edmonton Oilers’ head coach in the 48-game lockout shortened 2012-13 season, is in charge of Jack Eichel and crew.

Nobody fully knows what to expect out of the coach that went 19-22-7 with Edmonton before being replaced by Oilers management after one season.

On paper, this is Buffalo’s best chance in at least the last few seasons– if not more– to contend for a wild card spot or better in the Atlantic Division.

The only problem is that everyone else is getting better just the same, even as Rasmus Dahlin continues to emerge as a puck moving, gifted two-way defender.

Offseason Grade: B+

The wild card factor of Krueger behind the bench takes off a few points until proven otherwise, but the Sabres did a really nice job of cleaning up guys who need a second (or third) chance (Miller) and what was better of the more affordable free agents (Johansson) to help fill out a fuller roster than ever before.

Buffalo took a gamble with Skinner’s extension, but knows they finally have a winger locked up for Eichel. Now they just have to win.

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DTFR Podcast #166- New New New York

Nick and Colby recap the headlines from the last month as well as take a look at all of the New York market teams and try to figure out if any of them are actually any good as Season Six of the podcast begins.

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