After a fast start, the Buffalo Sabres have stumbled upon hard times, losing five straight games and 10 of 13.
Playing the red-hot Boston Bruins for the third time this month doesn’t figure to help.
Two Northeast Division rivals that appear headed in opposite directions will meet for the fourth time this season on Wednesday, as the Bruins look to earn a fifth straight win for the second time in November.
Instead, their struggles have returned, going 3-8-2 in their last 13. Buffalo has been outscored 25-9 during its five-game skid, with three of those losses coming at home.
The most recent was a 4-2 home defeat to the New York Islanders on Saturday. The Sabres outshot New York 18-2 in the second period, but were outscored 1-0 during the period.
In the previous game, a 3-0 loss to Philadelphia on Friday at HSBC Arena, the Sabres outshot the Flyers 40-25 but couldn’t beat Martin Biron.
“We put a lot into the last two games to get nothing for it,” Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said. “… You can dominate periods and get nothing for them but at the end you can’t let the frustration get to you. You’ve just got to stay with it. You’ve got to grind even harder.”
The same might be said of Vanek, who has 15 goals this season but has been held without a point in five of his last seven games.
For Boston, on the other hand, things couldn’t be going much better. The Bruins (14-3-4) have moved to the top of the Eastern Conference after earning at least a point in 10 straight games (9-0-1).
They’ve beaten Buffalo at home twice in that stretch, including a 7-4 win last Wednesday in which Miller allowed all of the Bruins’ goals. Boston weathered a wild first period, which featured five combined goals in the first six minutes and seven in the period, but scored the game’s final five goals.
The Bruins have even been getting bounces. In their latest victory, a 3-2 shootout victory at Montreal on Saturday, Blake Wheeler’s shootout winner went in even though he lost control of the puck.
Goalie Tim Thomas allowed two or fewer goals for his seventh straight start, while Matt Hunwick’s third-period goal gave him five points in his last four games. Hunwick, a 23-year-old defenseman filling in for the injured Andrew Ference, has just two career goals.
“We’re getting great goaltending, and we’re getting different guys stepping up every night. We’re getting a good mix of things right now,” said Boston forward Marc Savard, the team leader with 27 points. “We know it’s only 20 games in, so we’re not getting too high right now and try to keep an even keel. Things are going well.”
The Bruins lost 3-2 in their first visit to western New York this season on Oct. 21, with Miller outdueling Boston goalie Manny Fernandez in a shootout. Despite Thomas’ stellar start, Fernandez has started all three of Boston’s games versus the Sabres this season and is 5-0-1 with a 2.14 goals-against average in his career against them.