Boston at Buffalo
When: 7:00 PM ET, Saturday, December 29, 2018
Where: KeyBank Center, Buffalo, New York
Preview for Digital Sports Desk by Gracenote
BUFFALO – The Buffalo Sabres are light years ahead of last season but they are wobbling a bit since matching a franchise record with a 10-game winning streak last month. The Sabres have won only four times in their last 13 games (4-6-3) since that sizzling stretch but remain in third place in the Atlantic Division — one spot ahead of the Boston Bruins, who visit Buffalo on Saturday night.
After returning from the Christmas break with a 4-1 loss at St. Louis, the Sabres open a three-game homestand against the Bruins mindful of how games will take on added importance. “It’s fun hockey,” Buffalo forward Kyle Okposo said. “Every game means something. Every point is big. Just the way that we’ve started and the way that we’ve grown, yeah, that’s the expectation now.” Boston, which is trying to avert a third straight defeat, welcomed back four injured players over the past week but will be without three other players for Saturday’s matchup. “I’ve been in this league long enough to realize that stuff happens,” Bruins defenseman Torey Krug said. “More often than not, teams are playing at less than full strength.”
TV: 7 p.m. ET, NESN (Boston), MSG-Buffalo
ABOUT THE BRUINS (20-14-4): Defenseman Charlie McAvoy already has been ruled out of Saturday’s game and second-leading scorer Brad Marchand (upper body) is unlikely to play, coach Bruce Cassidy said after Friday’s practice. Later in the day, Boston learned it also will be without forward David Backes, who received a three-game suspension for an illegal hit to the head of Blake Coleman in Thursday’s 5-2 loss to New Jersey — a ban that will keep him out of the Winter Classic against Chicago on New Year’s Day at Notre Dame Stadium. Center Patrice Bergeron has three goals in three games since rejoining the lineup.
ABOUT THE SABRES (21-12-5): Buffalo opened the season with a 4-0 home loss to the Bruins but it exacted a measure of revenge with a 4-2 win at Boston on Dec. 16 behind two goals and two assists from captain Jack Eichel, who has scored 10 times over his last 10 games. Sabres coach Phil Housley did some tinkering with his lines at Friday’s practice, reuniting the trio of Okposo, Conor Sheary and Casey Mittelstadt. “I thought Casey and I did some good things last night and it’s just not happening right now. It will,” Okposo said. “It’s going to come for him and myself too. We just have to keep pushing.”
1. Eichel has five goals and 11 points in 12 games versus Boston.
2. Bruins G Tuukka Rask is 13-7-1 with a 2.15 goals-against average versus Buffalo.
3. Sabres D Rasmus Ristolainen is riding a four-game point streak.