This contest comes six days after the Bruins beat the Sabres 4-3 on Marco Sturm’s goal in overtime for just their fourth victory in the last 17 meetings overall. The teams also play Saturday in Boston.
The Bruins, though, have lost seven of their last eight games in Buffalo, with the only victory coming in a shootout last season. Boston hasn’t scored more than three goals in regulation in any of those games, failing to post a regulation win at HSBC Arena since March 11, 2004.
Both teams are struggling as they are amid nine-game stretches of division play. While the Bruins (7-5-1) have lost back-to-back games to division-leading Ottawa since beating Buffalo, the Sabres (5-7-1) enter this contest looking to avoid a season-high fourth straight loss.
That would match Buffalo’s longest losing streak from all of last season when it won the Presidents’ Trophy with the most points in the NHL. The Sabres have scuffled to a last-place start after losing top centers Daniel Briere and Chris Drury via free agency.
Their departure has been felt on the offensive end for Buffalo, which has averaged 2.1 goals over the last eight contests while going 2-5-1. Tinkering with the lines for the Sabres’ most recent game failed to make a difference, losing 2-0 to Montreal on Monday.
“You can’t be too mad, usually, about those games but it just comes at a time when we’re looking for something to go right and hopefully the guys aren’t going to take this too hard,” said Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller, who made 17 saves.
It was the second time the Sabres were shut out after scoring a goal in every regular-season game in 2006-07. Left wing Thomas Vanek has been limited to four goals through 13 games after scoring 43 last season.
The Sabres continue to be without defenseman Jaroslav Spacek (shoulder), who had eight points in six games, and lost centers Tim Connolly and Adam Mair to injuries in Monday’s loss. Both players are out indefinitely after Connolly, tied for the team lead with 12 points, strained his abdomen and Mair sprained his right ankle.
The Bruins (7-5-1), meanwhile, have been struggling to create offense of their own, especially after the loss of center Patrice Bergeron to a concussion suffered on a vicious hit by Philadelphia’s Randy Jones on Oct. 27. In their last two outings, Boston has had only one player score, with Chuck Kobasew netting all three goals in the losses to Ottawa.
The Bruins were outshot by a combined 81-41, albeit by a team first-year Boston coach Claude Julien called the best in hockey.
“We know we have to get better,” said Julien, whose team averages 2.5 goals per game.
Goalie Tim Thomas was solid against the Senators, allowing four goals in two games, and has kept the Bruins afloat all season with a 1.65 goals-against average and .949 save percentage. He’s had to shoulder the load in net since offseason acquisition Manny Fernandez went down with a strained knee.
“Timmy, again, is the reason why we were in the game the whole time,” Julien said after Sunday’s 2-1 shootout loss to Ottawa. “He kept us in the game as long as he could.”
To help Thomas, the Bruins called up 20-year-old prospect Tuukka Rask from Providence of the AHL on Monday. Rask, who came over from Toronto in the offseason trade involving Andrew Raycroft, could make his NHL debut this week after going 6-1 with a 2.00 GAA for Providence.