Buffalo at Boston
When: 1:00 PM ET, Saturday, December 31, 2016
Where: TD Garden, Boston, Mass
BOSTON – (Special to Digital Sports Desk by The Sports Xchange) – One could understand if the Boston Bruins are lamenting the fact that Saturday’s matchup against the visiting Buffalo Sabres is the last of the season between the Atlantic Division rivals. Boston has won the first three meetings by a combined 10-3 score as it seeks a sweep of the season series in the second leg of a home-and-home in a matinee at TD Garden.
Buffalo lost for the fifth time in six games (1-3-2) after coughing up an early two-goal lead in Thursday’s 4-2 loss to the Bruins. “You take a two-goal lead any night after a period and you think you’re going to get a point,” said Sabres coach Bylsma, who called the opening 20 minutes his team’s “best” of the season. Ryan Spooner scored a pair of third-period goals to cap the comeback for Boston, which continues to thrive on the road. The Bruins enter Saturday’s matchup with an 11-6-4 record away from home as opposed to an 8-9-0 mark at TD Garden.
TV: 1 p.m. ET, MSG-B (Buffalo), NESN (Boston)
ABOUT THE SABRES (13-14-8): Jack Eichel grew up outside Boston and played collegiately at Boston University before Buffalo selected him with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 draft. Eichel enjoyed the best game of his career in his first professional appearance at TD Garden a year ago, lighting up the Bruins for two goals and two assists. Rookie William Carrier sustained a gash on his hand in a fight with Adam McQuaid following the heavy hit on David Backes, prompting the Sabres to call up Justin Bailey from Rochester of the American Hockey League.
ABOUT THE BRUINS (19-15-4): Backes is not expected to play Saturday after he absorbed a blindside hit to the head from Carrier, knocking him out of Thursday’s game and forcing him to miss Friday’s practice session. “He’s being assessed today and (the organization) should produce something when they know more,” Boston coach Claude Julien said. “Obviously he’s seeing the doctors and he’s seeing everybody else. That’s all I have.” Frank Vatrano will take Backes’ spot on a line with Spooner and David Krejci, who had a goal and assist Thursday.
1. Krecji has two goals and three assists during a three-game point streak.
2. Sabres F Matt Moulson ended a five-game point drought with a pair of assists Thursday.
3. Bruins G Tuukka Rask is 12-5-1 against the Sabres after beating them for the third time this season.