BOSTON -- Greetings from Level 9 high atop the TD Garden, which is in the vicinity of the Celtics' retired numbers and championship banners, as we get set for the Sabres' first contest here since they were eliminated by the Bruins in Game Six of last year's Eastern Conference quarterfinals. First things first: Don't forget this is a Versus game and is not on MSG. And faceoff will be in the 7:40 range. Yeesh. Bad news for your intrepid print reporter.
Before we ruminate a little about this one, some big news percolating out of Chicago: Looks like Patrick Kane is out at least three weeks with his lower body injury (which was clearly to his left ankle).
There is no snow here but it's brutally cold outside with a whipping wind befitting the best of Chicago, or the perimeter of HSBC Arena. Since when did I decide on exercise? I could see the Garden from the hotel so I went for the walk, which turned into nearly a mile (it looked closer!), instead of the two-train hop on the world's easiest subway. Mistake. You could have chipped the ice off me by the time I got here.
Won't make the same mistake when this one is over. So cold I needed another one of those lobster bisque breadbowls I had this afternoon at the Boston Chowda stand in Quincy Market. Yum alert.
John Vogl wrote this morning about the goalie matchup of Ryan Miller and Tim Thomas and that's clearly the No. 1 storyline to this one. Thomas' numbers are ridiculous. A 1.46 GAA and .956 save percentage for the season! An 0.97 goals-against average and .975 save percentage in his last three. Crazy.
Miller, meanwhile, is working on back-to-back shutouts, a first for the Sabres since Martin Biron did that in 2002. Miller also has a shutout streak of 148:14 and needs to last exactly nine minutes tonight to set a new career high. I love how Lindy Ruff said yesterday goalies who are this hot feel like the puck is as big as a basketball and goalies who are cold think it's as small as a marble. Good one, Lindy. Heh.
If you missed our post off the morning skate, be sure to go to this link to catch up. Mark Mancari is up from Portland and in for Drew Stafford. Shaone Morrisonn is out with lingering head/neck issues and Chris Butler is in.
Sabres starters: Gerbe-Roy-Vanek-Leopold-Montador. Goal: Miller
Bruins starters: Lucic-Krejci-Horton-Ference-Chara. Goal: Thomas
3:14 left: Adam gets double minor for high sticking Savard. Roy stopped earlier by Thomas all alone. Now Sabres have to kill rest of period.
2:46 left: Bruins win it 3-2 on Dennis Seidenberg's shot from the point. You heard iron but the puck looked like it was in. Play continued 48 seconds but replay confirms the goal. Credited to Recchi on a tip in. Tough, tough 3-2 loss.
9:19 p.m.: We're under way.
16:58 left: Thomas stops Pominville and denies Adam his second with a right pad save on the rebound.
15:53 left: Vanek puts Buffalo ahead, 2-1, banking the puck off Thomas from behind the goal line as he beat the Boston goalie to the spot. Both goalies have given up a real cheapie tonight.
11:05 left: Miller with some robbery off Lucic, who walked out in front of the net with the puck all alone and had enough time to walk through Quincy Market without being touched, but couldn't stuff it home.
10:00 left: The Adam line all over the Bruins again with Thomas making a couple great saves. Shots are 26-22 for Buffalo -- and 11-4 in this period.
9:01 left: Vanek beats Thomas with an absolute rocket -- but rifles it off the post.
6:21 left: Weber with a terrible giveaway. Passed it in the slot to Nathan Horton, who beats Miller. Game tied, 2-2. Inexcuseable play. Can't happen in the NHL. Weber will be in the press box Thursday night, assuming Morrisonn can play. Ruff may even be inclined to put Craig Rivet back in.
4:32 left: Montador for high sticking. Sabres holding on.
37.9 left: Sabres survived power play and Bruins survive McCormick's shot from in tight. Solid save by Thomas.
End-3rd: OT. Sabres survive. Shots 14-12 for Buffalo. 30-29 for Boston.
8:31 p.m: We're under way.
19:30 left: Lucic fails to corral a slick Krejci pass. He does and he has a wide-open net for a tap-in. Close, close call.
14:49 left: Miller and Myers combine to stymie Bergeron from in tight. Another close call.
14:02 left: Seguin goes for high-sticking Gerbe.
13:35 left: Vanek stoned from in front. Shakes his head in disbelief. Great feed from behind the net by Mancari.
12:05 left: Bruins' second great chance for a SH tally is stopped by a goalpost after Recchi had Miller beat on a breakaway.
9:44 left: Thomas makes the save on Hecht and stretches on his toes to snare the rebound out of the air. Dude is white-hot. Shots are 14-11 for Boston and 3-3 in this period. Sabres are having lots of trouble when the defense pair of Weber-Butler is on the ice. If I'm Lindy Ruff, I probably go to four D in the third period, if not sooner.
7:03 left: After a great shift by Mancari-Adam-Pominville saw Thomas make three great saves, Adam finally pokes the puck along the ice under Thomas for his first NHL goal. Mancari makes sure to get the puck for him after Adam pumps his fist in celebration. You were really starting to wonder if the Sabres were beating Thomas tonight. Game tied, 1-1.
4:28 left: Roy goes for hooking. Few seconds earlier, that old pistol Recchi pitchforked the 6-foot-8 Myers in the corner. What a classic pest Recchi is.
End-2nd: All tied, 1-1. Shots were 7-7 and are 18-15 for Bruins overall. Low-scoring, tight affair. Expected nothing less.
7:38 p.m.: We're under way. Versus takes pity on us print guys and gives us a couple extra minutes.
18:16 left: Great shift by the Ennis-Hecht-Kaleta line had the Bruins hemmed in for 45 seconds. Best chance came by Ennis on a 2-on-1 at the end of the shift with Pominville but he sent a backhand wide from in tight.
15:33 left: Ryder fires wide on a 3-on-2 break. Easily Bruins best chance so far. Sabres have the game's only shot. Lindy Ruff has run the lines out just as he did during the morning skate. It's Gerbe-Roy-Vanek, Mancari-Adam-Pominville, Ennis-Hecht-Kaleta and McCormick-Gaustad-Grier. Defense pairs are Sekera-Myers, Leopold-Montador and Butler-Weber.
14:43 left: Thomas with highway robbery on Gerbe at the doorstep on a Vanek feed. That would have been a huge boost for Gerbe, who remains goalless in 17 games.
13:21 left: Myers fires wide on a 4-on-2 as the trailer and then Ennis is stopped a few seconds later trying to go around Thomas and jam it behind the goalie. Thomas beat him to the post.
12:42 left: Bruins' first shot, a slapper from the point by McQuaid that Miller stops. Sabres have four shots.
11:00 left: Career high shutout streak for Miller. Now 157:14.
9:00 left: Shots are 5-2 for Buffalo. Solid road period so far.
6:39 left: Almost not fair that Miller's shutout streak ends on a brutal goal. Lucic comes around from behind the net, barely gets over the goal line to Millier's left and swoops it between Miller's pads and just over the line. Bruins lead, 1-0. In a season of very few soft goals against Miller, that might have been the worst one he's given up.
5:56 left: Boychuk clubs Pominville from behind and Montador steps in for a solid tussle. Of course, it would have been nice if there had been some retribution on Boychuk during the playoffs after he chopped down Vanek and changed the course of the series. Update: Montador gets an extra two for roughing.
5:00 left: The "Mil-ler, Mil-ler" chants are going pretty good here.
3:42 left: Penalty killed, although Ryder missed a glorious chance from in front. Bruins have a 10-6 edge in shots and a decided edge in play the last eight minutes.
2:48 left: Miler's shutout streak was 161:35. Bad news here: Bruins are 10-0-1 when scoring first, although the blemish came in Saturday's shootout loss at Toronto.
End-1st: Bruins hold their 1-0 lead and had an 11-8 edge in shots.