By Mike Harrington
You think of the Boston Bruins and you would instinctly think of sheer dominance against a struggling outfit like the Sabres. But you really have to think again. The numbers don't match up.
The Sabres are 1-1 against the Bruins this year and they continue to stay above water against the B's in the post-Drury/Briere era. They were 2-2-2 against Boston last year, 4-1-1 against the Bruins in 2010-11 (Boston's Stanley Cup season). It was 2-2-2 again in 2009-10, 4-2 in 2008-09 and 4-2-2 in 2007-08.
Since the 2005 lockout, in fact, the Sabres are 17-3-5 against the Bruins at home. One of the three regulation losses was Sunday's 3-1 loss, a game the Bruins dominated but didn't take a lead for good until there was less than 13 minutes to go.
Playing their third game in four nights, the Sabres had little energy in that game. They've now had two days off and expect things to be much different tonight.
"We had a good day off and a good practice yesterday," coach Lindy Ruff said today. "When you talk about energy level, it should be right at the top."
"It will be a different game plan," said captain Jason Pominville. "They played well and created chances. The score didn't indicate the way the game was played. They spent most of the night in our zone."
One reason the Sabres do well against Boston is because Thomas Vanek's 28 goals in 54 points in 47 games against the Bruins are his most against any NHL opponent. Ryan Miller is 23-7-7 against the Bruins. Meanwhile, Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask is just 4-5-1 against Buffalo (but has that little feather in his cap of the '10 playoffs).
Vanek aside, scoring against the Bruins can be a real chore this season. The Bruins' 25 goals against are tied for the fewest in the league. And remember, seven came in the Sabres' Jan. 31 win in TD Garden.
"That group of six defensemen is real tough," Ruff said. "With [Zdeno] Chara back there playing half the game, he's one of the best defenders in the league, one of the strongest. They've got excellent team speed, maybe the best team speed in the league."
Cody McCormick and T.J. Brennan will be healthy scratches tonight. Alexander Sulzer was scratched Tuesday in Ottawa and will likely sit again tonight, although it was astutely noted to me he didn't stay on the ice for extra work. That means there could be another decision still to be made on defense.
Click below to hear Ruff's session from this morning with the media.