The Buffalo Sabres seem like the ideal opponent for the Boston Bruins to face while trying to continue their late-season surge.
Coming off their ninth consecutive victory over the Sabres, the visiting Bruins aim for a season-high sixth straight win overall when these teams meet again on Thursday night.
With Tuesday’s 2-0 victory at Buffalo, Boston (26-12-6, 58 points) has outscored the Sabres 12-5 in four meetings this season. And, the Bruins still get two more cracks at Buffalo (12-27-7, 31 points), which is already eliminated from playoff contention, this week on Thursday and Friday.
More importantly for the Bruins, these contests offer a good chance for them to perhaps move up in the East Division. Boston, which had three winning streaks of at least six games in 2019-20, owns the fourth and final playoff spot in the East, but is four points off the division lead.
However, coach Bruce Cassidy hopes to see a better overall collective effort from his team in Thursday’s rematch. On Tuesday, the Bruins allowed 17 third-period shots on goal after giving up just 15 over the first 40 minutes.
“I didn’t like our third period at all. I thought we lost our discipline,” Boston coach Bruce Cassidy said. “We gave up a lot of chances, relied on our goaltender.
“We’ve got to raise our standard internally and get back to work (in practice) so we’re better prepared for Thursday.”
Tuuka Rask stopped 32 shots for his first shutout of the season Tuesday and has a 1.33 goals-against average during a three-game winning streak. However, rookie Jeremy Swayman (4-1-0, 1.78 GAA) or even Jaroslav Halak, recently out of COVID-19 protocol, could start in Boston’s net in the first of this back-to-back scenario.
Buffalo’s Dustin Tokarski, who has a 2.29 goals-against average in last four games, made 39 saves on Tuesday, but didn’t get any support as the Sabres were shut out for an eighth time this season.
“I’m glad we play them again because we get a chance to look in the mirror, look at the video, speak of the game, and measure ourselves against a great hockey team, and a team that is fighting for every point,” interim Sabres coach Don Granato said.
“We’re trying to advance and improve our team individually, our players individually, our team collectively. You want opposition like this. You learn a lot about yourself.”
Buffalo is 6-4-2 since its franchise-record 18-game winless rut (0-15-3), but has dropped two of the last three. Tuesday also marked the third time over the last 12 games that promising Sabres forward Casey Mittelstadt failed to record a point. He has seven goals with three assists during that stretch.
With a goal Tuesday, Boston star Brad Marchand has scored five of his team-leading 24 over the last four games. Entering play Wednesday, Marchand’s 11 goals in April are the most in the NHL. Teammate David Pastrnak has six assists over the last four contests.
Buffalo’s Sam Reinhart has a team-leading 17 goals in 2020-21, but just one in the four games versus Boston.