Although it ranks just 11th overall in the NHL on the season, the Buffalo power play comes into today’s game at TD Banknorth Garden on a bit of a roll and will provide a stiff test for Boston’s red-hot penalty kill.
The Sabres have scored a power-play goal in seven straight games and are 9-for-30 over that stretch. Of course, Buffalo hasn’t always turned a hot power play into W’s, as the Sabres are also just 3-2-2 over that time.
The Boston penalty kill, unscored upon in five games (20-for-20), has enjoyed a meteoric rise since the start of the season. Near the bottom of the NHL in that department last season, the Bruins started off this season the same way. But they’re now 8th overall on the PK, a number that lends itself as much to the chemistry and confidence the Bruins’ killers have with one another as their skill and schemes.
Head coach Claude Julien has been able to send out any out of a handful of forwards (including sniper Phil Kessel and AHL call-up Martin St. Pierre) with full confidence that they’ll combine with the solid D corps and goaltender to snuff out the opponent’s man-advantage. The improvement on the PK is yet another bit of evidence of the Bruins’ increased depth this season.
Season series: The Bruins are 2-1-1 against Buffalo this season, as they suffered one of their rare regulation losses at the hands of the Sabres Nov. 26 at HSBC Arena. At the Garden, the Bruins are 2-0-0 vs. Buffalo. The teams will meet just once more after this game.
What they’re writing: Buffalo News columnist Bucky Gleason talked with head coach Lindy Ruff about the bench boss’s methods in trying to get the Sabres out of their recent funk. Gleason’s notebook also tells us that Nathan Gerbe, the former Boston College star, has been returned to Portland (AHL) to get some playing time.
Buffalo Player to Watch: It’s as easy to become enamored with watching the likes of Thomas Vanek, Derek Roy and Jason Pominville as it is hard to contain them. But Buffalo really needs players farther down on their depth chart to produce to be successful as a team. One of those players that’s contributed recently is winger Clarke MacArthur, who has scored in five of the Sabres’ last seven games. Like many of the Bruins’ young guns, MacArthur has already surpassed career highs in all his offensive categories and he could be a handful for the Bruins this afternoon.