During a rough start this month, the Buffalo Sabres have failed to earn points against any team besides the Boston Bruins. Perhaps fortunately for the Sabres, they visit Boston on Saturday night in a matchup of struggling offenses.
Buffalo (6-8-1) is 1-3-1 this month, with the only points coming against their Northeast Division rivals. The Sabres won Wednesday’s game 2-1 in overtime at home as Clarke MacArthur scored the game-winner, and took the Bruins to an extra session at TD Banknorth Garden on Nov. 1 before falling 4-3 on a goal by Marco Sturm.
They are 14-1-3 over their last 18 games against Boston.
However, Buffalo is struggling against other opponents, having lost its other three November contests by a combined 9-2 margin. On Friday night, the Sabres suffered their second shutout loss in three games and their third of the season, falling 3-0 at home to Toronto.
Buffalo had 30 shots on net, but couldn’t beat Maple Leafs goalie Andrew Raycroft. The Sabres were not blanked during a 2006-07 season in which they scored a league-high 298 goals and won the Presidents Trophy.
“I don’t know what the team is thinking collectively,” said Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller, who made 20 saves. “It was a frustrating kind of game.”
The Bruins (7-6-2) also are having trouble putting the puck in the net, as they have managed only one goal in each of their last three games and in eight of their 15 contests this season. Boston is 0-for-11 on the power play during its current losing streak, which extended to four games Thursday night with a 2-1 defeat to Montreal in the opener of a three-game homestand.
“Coach (Claude Julien) is trying to go with guys that are hot and he is searching for answers,” Bruins forward Marc Savard said.
If the Bruins are to find an answer Saturday, it might be Savard. He has two goals and an assist in the two games against Buffalo this month, giving him five goals and 13 assists during a 12-game point streak versus the Sabres.
Tim Thomas continues to give the Bruins excellent play in net, with a 1.71 goals-against average in his 11 starts this season. He made 30 saves in Thursday’s tough-luck loss.
Boston needs his strong performances to continue, as the Bruins placed Manny Fernandez on the injured reserve list Friday with a knee injury he suffered in practice on Oct. 30. Fernandez is out indefinitely, leaving 20-year-old Tuukka Rask - a top prospect with no NHL experience - as Thomas’ backup.
Thomas is 5-4-2 with a 3.27 GAA in 13 career games - 10 starts - versus Buffalo.
Sabres right wing Ales Kotalik scored on the power play against Boston on Wednesday, and had two assists in the Nov. 1 matchup. He has 10 goals and 21 points in 28 career games versus the Bruins.