While the Buffalo Sabres and Carolina Hurricanes played the first NHL game after the 2014 Olympic break on Tuesday, the rest of the NHL returns to action tonight. There are four games on the NHL schedule for this evening, kicking off as the Sabres host the Boston Bruins in a 7:30 p.m. home matchup.
Tonight’s game is the fourth meeting of the season between the Bruins and the Sabres. They’ll meet once more in April to close out the season series. So far, Boston has come away with two victories, while the Sabres one of the three meetings so far.
Heading into tonight’s game, the Sabres and Bruins sit at almost opposite ends of the NHL Eastern Conference. The Bruins are second (behind the Penguins) with 78 points and a record of 37-16-4. The team is 7-1-2 in their last ten and last played on February 8, a 7-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators.
The Sabres, meanwhile, are last in the conference - and league – with a record of 16-34-8 and 40 points. The team is 3-6-1 in their last ten games, and prior to last night, hadn’t won since January 30, a four-game stretch.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Sabres: Drew Stafford has 11 points (6-5) in his last eight games, while defenseman Christian Ehrhoff has seven points in his last seven games. Ehrhoff is coming off a two-goal performance in last night’s win over Carolina, is third overall on the team in points and leads the Sabres in assists (27). Center Cody Hodgson has 30 points (14-16) in 48 games this season, while left winger Matt Moulson leads the team in goals (15) and points (34).
Bruins: Center David Krejci leads the Bruins with 50 points in 57 games this season. Reilly Smith leads the team in goals (18), but there’s also Jarome Iginla and Milan Lucic to keep an eye out for – both have 17 goals this season, and 43 and 41 points each, respectively. Patrice Bergeron is another dangerous offensive weapon on the Bruins that the Sabres will have to contain tonight. Iginla, Krejci and Lucic are each on four-game point streaks dating back to before the Olympic break.
THE SEASON SERIES
Boston won the first meeting of the season, a 5-2 victory in Buffalo that saw Nikita Zadorov notch his first NHL goal. Cody Hodgson scored the other goal for the Sabres that night, while Marcus Foligno had a pair of assists. Boston goals came from Milan Lucic (2), Torrey Krug (2) and Dougie Hamilton. Ryan Miller got the start in net, stopping 29 of 34 shots faced, while Chad Johnson tended goal for the Bruins and had 14 saves.
The Sabres came out on top in the second matchup of the season, defeating the Bruins 4-2. Brian Flynn, Marcus Foligno, Drew Stafford and Tyler Myers all scored for Buffalo, while Boston’s goals both came from Brad Marchand. Once again, it was Miller vs. Johnson, with the goalies getting 34 and 19 saves each, respectively.
Finally, the Bruins defeated the Sabres 4-1 in the most recent meeting on December 21. Zemgus Girgensons scored the lone goal for Buffalo, while Boston goals came from Zack Smith, David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Reilly Smith (empty netter). The goaltending matchup that night was different than any we’d seen before this season: it was Jhonas Enroth (35 saves) vs. Tuukka Rask (34 saves).
THE OLYMPIC FACTOR
One thing that won’t be lacking during tonight’s Sabres vs. Bruins game is Olympians. The Sabres, of course, had Jhonas Enroth and Henrik Tallinder, who both earned a silver medal with Sweden. Zemgus Girgensons and coach Ted Nolan represented Latvia, while Ryan Miller was one of three goaltenders for Team USA.
The Bruins had five Olympic players of their own. Forward Patrice Bergeron won a gold medal with Canada, while Loui Eriksson joined Enroth and Tallinder in getting a silver medal on the Swedish team. Goaltender Tuukka Rask won a bronze medal with Finland, while David Krejci (Czech Republic) and Zdeno Chara (Slovakia) also participated in the games.
IT ALL BEGINS TONIGHT
Tonight’s game between the Bruins and the Sabres is a nationally-televised matchup that begins at 7:30 p.m. EST. This marks the second of three consecutive home games for the Sabres, who will then host the San Jose Sharks on Friday before heading out on a three-game road trip.