Bruins Preview: Buffalo and the Playoffs

Milan Lucic and Benoit Pouliot (Photo Credit: Steph Phillips)

Today marks the sixth and final meeting between the Buffalo Sabres and Boston Bruins of the 2011-2012 regular season. The Bruins are looking to end their regular season on a positive note by coming up with a win today at home. The Bruins have won three out of the last five match ups between these two teams which has feuded into a conference rivalry, stemming from a hit Ryan Miller sustained from Milan Lucic in the month of November.

The defending Stanley Cup Champs are gearing up for their first round of the playoffs and getting into the general mindset that goes along with that, given the physical history between these two teams this season, this game should prove to be physical and definitely entertaining.

“It’s definitely dangerous when you play a team like that,” the B’s gritty forward said. “They have nothing to lose, and basically they’re just trying to be a spoiler. (Brad Marchand on focusing on the Sabres and not Game 1, via Bruins Official Site)

By the time tonight’s game starts the Bruins could have somewhat of an idea as to who they will be facing in the first round.  If the Senators win today or get at least a point against the Devils, they will be the team to beat out in the first round.  If they lose and the Capitals pick up a win against the New York Rangers, they will slide into the seventh spot and face the Bruins. The fate of the Bruins first round lies on the Senators’shoulders. (No pressure or anything) Personally, I would love to see the Senators lose and face the Capitals, it wouldn’t necessarily be ‘easier’ to beat them out of the first round, but it would be a lot better than battling it outwith the Senators like the Bruins have all year long.

However, if the first round opponent does in fact end up being Ottawa, Boston has won five out of six match ups this season against them, providing some confidence for the B’s. Especially with their 3-1 win over the Sens Thursday night without key players Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron and Tim Thomas. Granted every team excels in the playoffs as the mindset begins to change and the game becomes more physical, but to know you can beat a team with your best players missing, that’s definitely a plus.  While Tuukka Rask isn’t quite ready for post-season with his injury, Anton Khudobin proved that he is willing and able to step up and fill the shoes of the back-up goaltender as he posted 44 saves in Thursday’s 3-1 win.

“I thought he played phenomenal,” Seguin said of Khudobin, who had six previous games of NHL experience with Minnesota. “Early in the game he was great and made some big saves and he played a solid 60 minutes.”(via Bruins Official Site)

Tonight the Buffalo Sabres are going to be without defensemen Christian Ehrhoff (knee) and Tyler Myers (foot) and forward Matt Ellis (knee). For the Bruins it’s Tuukka Rask with his groin/abdomen injury, defenseman Johnny Boychuk  who is day-to-day with a sprained knee and Nathan Horton who is still out with a concussion.

The players to watch today for Boston are forwards Tyler Seguin, Milan Lucic and Benoit Pouliot. Seguin leads the team in scoring for the season and against the Sabres with 3 goals and 6 points.  Milan Lucic and Benoit Pouliot have both posted goals in consecutive games for the Bruins, Lucic notching his 26th of the season against the Sens and Pouliot with his 16th. David Krejci also has 3 goals and 6 assists in his last six games.

Tonight it is likely that Thomas will get the nod in net, otherwise he will have 9 or 10 days off in a row by the start of Game 1. It is also likely that Anton Khudobin will be the back-up rather than Turco, as today will be the last day he is a part of the Bruins organization.  Through five games with the Bruins he had a 2-3-0 record.

Tonight’s game is on NESN at 4pm EST or you can listen to it on 98.5 the Sports Hub.


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