Bruins-Sabres Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated February 23, 2012
The last six weeks have been a struggle for the Northeast Division-leading Boston Bruins. The low point came in Buffalo two weeks ago. The Bruins look to avenge their most lopsided defeat in four years and string together back-to-back victories for the first time since mid-January when they face the Sabres on Friday night at the First Niagara Center. Boston (36-20-2) outscored Buffalo 10-5 in winning the first two meetings, with Tyler Seguin combining for three goals and two assists and Brad Marchand adding two goals and two assists. Those games, however, took place in November, when the Bruins were nearly perfect. Boston has been anything but lately, going 8-9-1 since the last time it won back-to-back games Jan. 10 and 12. The Bruins' most glaring defeat over that stretch took place in Buffalo on Feb. 8, when the Sabres (26-27-7) handed Boston a 6-0 loss. It's the most goals the Bruins have allowed all season and was their most lopsided defeat since falling 8-2 to Toronto on March 6, 2008. Tuukka Rask was pulled after allowing three goals on 10 shots and the Sabres - led by Ryan Miller's 36 saves and Jason Pominville's two goals - showed some grit by getting involved in several fights with the physical Bruins. Although Boston hasn't been playing well lately, it arrives in Buffalo - the fifth stop on a season-high six-game trip - feeling a bit better about its situation. After being shut out for the fourth time in 10 February games with Sunday's 2-0 loss to Minnesota, the Bruins beat St. Louis 4-2 on Wednesday, handing the Blues their first regulation home loss since Dec. 3. Marchand scored twice and Tim Thomas stopped the final 27 shots he faced after allowing two goals on the first five. "This was a big win for us after being shut out in the last game," Marchand said. "With a couple of losses in a row, we wanted to make sure we followed up with a good game." Marchand is tied with Milan Lucic for the team lead with 21 goals but had been part of Boston's offensive struggles, scoring just once in his first nine games this month. The Bruins' sputtering power play has also had a lot to do with the scoring woes, going 2 for 22 in the last 10 games. Buffalo's power play has been even worse, converting 1 of 32 chances in its last 12 contests. The Sabres own one of the Eastern Conference's worst records but are still in contention for one of the final playoff spots. They're coming off Tuesday's 2-1 win over the New York Islanders, their second straight victory following a four-game skid. "We're happy, but at the same time, we've got to get some more points," center Derek Roy said. "We've got to keep winning hockey games. We can't win one, lose one anymore. We've got to put a streak together. We've got to gain some ground right now." Roy and Pominville assisted on Tuesday's goals by Tyler Myers and Thomas Vanek and have been leading Buffalo's offense lately. Pominville, who has team highs of 23 goals and 36 assists, has six goals and six assists in his last nine games. Roy has two goals and five assists in his last four contests after totaling three goals and an assist in his previous 19. Miller finished with 30 saves against the Islanders, coming within 5:08 of his first shutout since beating the Bruins two weeks ago.
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