Greetings from high atop HSBC Arena -- just behind the newly-hung flags of the nations in the upcoming World Junior Championships -- as we get set for the Sabres' game against the Boston Bruins. Time is already wasting in the playoff chase, believe it or not, and this is only game 31 of the season.
Tim Connolly even said after the morning skate today that "our playoffs have already started." The players can read the standings too. The Sabres already stand eight points out of the top eight and realistically don't appear to have much chance to finish any higher than fifth or sixth in the East this season without a major, major winning streak.
Bout time the Sabres beat the Bruins, don't you think? They're 0-1-1 this year coming on the heels of last year's playoff defeat.
Sabres starters: McCormick-Gaustad-Grier-Leopold-Montador. Goal: Miller.
Bruins starters: Thornton-Campbell-Marchand-Chara-Seidenberg. Goal: Rask.
8:52 p.m.: We're under way.
18:32 left: Connolly for tripping, again in the offensive zone. Bruins are lucky it wasn't evened up as Chara leveled Kaleta late into the boards just before the whistle.
16:30 left: The penalty is killed. Boston is 0-4 tonight.
16:04 left: Rask with back-to-back stonies of Montador and Connolly.
14:56 left: Weber for tripping Thornton. Can the PK keep holding the Bruins off?
13:39 left: They can't. Ryder cuts right between Montador and Hecht, pulls the puck around Miller and stuffs it in the empty net. Bruins lead, 2-1.
13:07 left: There's the way to answer. Roy with a beautiful backhand feed to Stafford, who slams it home for his second of the night. Game tied, 2-2. Stafford's seventh and fourth in four games, albeit spread by a month due to injuries.
12:30 left: Nice touch by the Sabres, recognizing Boston's Mark Recchi for playing in his 1,600th career game. Standing ovation from lots of Bruins fans behind the visitors bench.
11:15 left: Sekera to the dressing room tunnel after a hit along the boards. Looks like a shoulder problem.
9:17 left: A potential Boston go-ahead goal is wiped out by a goaltender interference call against Thornton. Seemed like a pretty obvious call but it also seemed like a late one too. Sabres would have had a huge argument. The entire bench was up, certainly with fresh memories of last week's overtime goal where Recchi interfered with Miller and wasn't whistled.
9:05 left: Bang. Here come the hats. Stafford puts home a Roy feed after a Pominville point shot. Two power play goals. Three for the night. Eight for the season. Sabres' first hat trick of the season. Sabres lead, 3-2.
7:12 left: Rask keeps Boston alive stopping Butler on a 2-on-1 with Ennis
6:52 left: Rask again, on Roy.
5:12 left: Sekera is back. Shots are 8-6 for Buffalo in the period, 35-32 overall. Just wondering: Sabres lead by a goal -- why are all these fans leaving? Really? That's a joke. To save, what, 10 minutes in the parking lot? Attendance: 18,197.
1:38 left: Lucic for unsportsmanlike conduct. Must have been chirping. Sabres did a good job killing 20 seconds on the delayed penalty call.
56.7 left: Myers pretty gimpy heading off after a collision along the boards. Timeout by Boston.
10.7 left: Miller corrals a tip from the point with Chara looming right in front. Faceoff to Miller's left.
It's over: A huge 3-2 win with a scrum at the end after chara poked Miller. Stupid.
Of note: No one from either team has more than three shots. Roy, Stafford and Marchand are at three. The Sabres were charged with nine giveaways while Boston had just two
8:01 p.m: We're under way.
17:38 left: Good call by Ruff to shift the lines and put Stafford with Roy and Vanek. Niedermayer is with Pominville and Hecht. No clue what the thinking was putting him with Roy and Vanek. At this point, he looks like the forward version of Craig Rivet. As in too old to still be in the NHL. Slow, slow, slow.
13:23 left: Sabres dodge a bullet as Chara has Miller beat the shot clangs off the post.
12:01 left: Hecht for hooking deep in the offensive zone. Totally unnecessary.
10:50 left: Miller with a couple nice saves and Myers goes for delay of game for firing a rolling puck over the glass. Two-man advantage. Ouch.
8:45 left: Sabres survive as great work by Connolly-Montador-Leopold helps to kill off the 5-on-3. Shots are 8-4 for Boston in the period. Like how Montador wiped out Lucic in front during the kill.
7:14 left: Vanek right around Adam McQuaid but McQuaid appeared to just hook his stick at the last second.
3:44 left: Bergeron for hooking puts Buffalo on the PP. Myers set it up by faking the shot and going around Chara while getting a pass to Ennis.
1:36 left: Bruins kill it and Sabres survive a terrible giveaway by Miller and a worse one by Hecht to keep it tied. Miller got back in the net after his trouble behind the net with the puck and stopped Bergeron after a brutal crossice pass from Hecht, who has been mostly brutal all night.
1:10 left: Miller with the save of the night, a right pad job, on a laser from the slot by Horton. Shots are 12-9 in the second for Boston.
End-2nd: Tied at 1-1. Shots are 27-26 for Buffalo.
13:17 left: We had a few Internet issues up here in the press box that appear to be rectified now so we can return to our regularly scheduled programming. The Sabres have a 9-6 edge in shots on goal with both Miller and Rask making some good saves. Pretty loose, wide-open affair so far. Not what you expect from a visit from the Bruins.
9:10 left: The lines are what we saw this morning and yesterday in practice. That means Niedermayer is with Vanek and Roy in quite an odd combination. Stafford is with Hecht and Pominville, Connolly is centering Ennis and Kaleta and Gaustad is centering McCormick and Grier. Shots are 10-9 for Boston.
7:17 left: Ference for roughing. Pretty nasty shot to Kaleta's face as the Buffalo forward was going down. Came right after Rask stopped Kaleta on a nice Connolly feed.
6:25 left: Stafford slashing as Krejci nearly got a breakaway. The Bruins, remember, burned the Sabres for two short-handed goals here in their win last month.
4:13 left: The boxes are empty.
2:31 left: Krejci tips in Seidenberg's shot from the point. Untouched in front. Sabres had about four chances to clear the zone, notably Hecht and Niedermayer. Bruins lead, 1-0.
2:11 left: Lucic goes for boarding.
1:19 left: The Sabres tie it at 1-1 as Stafford backhands home a rebound. Came after Rask robbed Roy and Roy then hit the post -- sparking a brief but stunted noise from the goal horn. Turns out the sound was just a second or too premature. Shots are 18-14 for Buffalo but you wouldn't necessarily say it's a game filled with glorious chances.
End-1st: Game tied at 1-1. Shots stay at 18-14. Big to get that tying goal late.