Get your game notes: Bruins at Sabres

This evening on NBCSN, it’s the Buffalo Sabres hosting the Boston Bruins starting at 7:30 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

— Boston, 1st in the Atlantic Division, visits Buffalo, last in the Atlantic Division, in the fourth of five meetings this season – Bruins have won two of the three meetings including the most recent matchup, 4-1 in Boston on Dec. 21, but lost the last meeting in Buffalo, 4-2 on Dec. 19.

— Buffalo is coming off a 3-2 win at home last night over Carolina, the first game on the NHL calendar post-Olympics. The win snapped an eight-game home losing streak for the Sabres dating back to Jan. 4 & improved their home record to 10-17-5; only the N.Y. Islanders (8-14-8 at home) have fewer home wins this season. Buffalo’s 17 regulation home losses are the most in the NHL.

— Four Sabres returned from competing in Sochi: Henrik Tallinder (SWE), Ryan Miller (USA), Zemgus Girgensons (LAT) & Jhonas Enroth (SWE), while five Bruins also participated in the Olympics: Patrice Bergeron (CAN), Zdeno Chara (SVK), Loui Eriksson (SWE), David Krejci (CZE) & Tuukka Rask (FIN).

  • Tallinder, playing in his second Olympics (2010) won his first medal (silver) playing alongside teammate & first-time Olympian Enroth.
  • Bergeron, playing in his second Olympics (2010), now has two gold medals – he played in each of Canada’s 6 games in Sochi & registered 2 assists. Eriksson (2G-A), also in his second Olympics (2010), won his first medal (silver) while Rask (3-1, 1 SO) picked up a bronze in his Olympic debut as Finland came in third for the second straight Games.
  • Sabres coach Ted Nolan led Latvia to the nation’s first-ever quarterfinal Olympic game, a 2-1 loss to Canada. Their 8th-place finish was the best in the country’s five Olympic appearances.
  • 63 NHLers – representing 25 of the league’s 30 clubs – won a medal
  • ANA, BOS & PHX were the only teams to have players win the gold, silver and bronze.

— Boston last played on Feb. 8, a 7-2 home win over OTT, & last played on the road on Feb. 6, a 3-2 OT loss at St. Louis. The Bruins won their previous road game, 6-3, at NYI on Jan. 27. Boston went into the Olympic break having earned at least one point in 10 of their last 11 games (8-1-2). Buffalo, before winning last night, had lost 4 straight in regulation & went 2-8-3 in their last 13 before the break.

— Tuukka Rask (BOS) did not travel with the team as he was given the game off to rest post-Olympics. Rask was under the weather in Sochi & did not play in Finland’s semifinal game against Sweden but returned to pitch a 27-save shutout against the U.S. in a 5-0 bronze-medal-game win. Chad Johnson (11-3-0 this season) will start in net tonight for the Bruins; he last was in goal on Feb. 8 (7-2 win over OTT). Johnson started in two of the three meetings against Buffalo this season (his only career games vs. the Sabres), winning on the road on Oct. 23, 5-2, and then losing at Buffalo on Dec. 19, 4-2.

— Jhonas Enroth (1-12-5 on the season) is expected to be in net for the Sabres in place of Ryan Miller, who backed up Jonathan Quick on team USA in Sochi & stopped 36 of 38 shots last night (& added 2 assists). In his career, Enroth is 0-4-2 against Boston & lost 4-1 on Dec. 21 in his only meeting against them this season. He dressed in five of six games in Sochi but Ranger Henrik Lundqvist was in net the entire tournament for Sweden. Enroth last played on Feb. 6 at OTT in a 3-2 loss.

— Buffalo is last in the league in scoring, 1.84 goals/game (L.A. is next at 2.25) & have the worst goal differential at -1.09 (FLA is next at -0.79). Boston averages 3.07 goals/game (5th-best) with a 0.93 goal differential (2nd-best). The Bruins have the second best goals allowed per game mark at 2.14 this season and the best team save percentage, .927.

Rivalry Night on NBCSN: Sabres look to slow Bruins’ surge

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Throughout the season, NBCSN will feature the NHL’s fiercest rivalries on Wednesday nights. Tonight the Boston Bruins will head to First Niagara Center to take on the Buffalo Sabres at 7:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

The next time these two teams meet, the Buffalo Sabres are likely to look significantly different. Without a hope of making the playoffs, Buffalo is poised to trade several of its key players, including starting goaltender Ryan Miller, top forward Matt Moulson, and perhaps captain Steve Ott.

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a $1,500 Fantasy Hockey league for Wednesday night’s NHL games. It’s just $10 to join and first prize is $350. Starts Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. ET. Here’s the FanDuel link.

Before that happens though, the Sabres can make life difficult for the Bruins and prevent them from sowing up their season series, which Boston currently leads 2-1 with two games remaining, including tonight’s contest.

As play resumes, Boston has a seven-point edge on the Atlantic Division title, but the second place Tampa Bay Lightning are about to get injured forward Steven Stamkos back and Montreal Canadiens goaltender Caray Price should have returned to North America with plenty of confidence after leading Canda to gold in the 2014 Winter Games.

Under ideal circumstances, the Bruins would like to lock up the division before Tampa Bay, Montreal, and, for that matter, Toronto, have a chance to make things interesting again. Buffalo can certainly make that task a little more difficult for the Bruins tonight.

This will be a battle of backup goaltenders as Tuukka Rask didn’t even make the trip to Buffalo, according to CSN New England.

Rask has never played in more than 45 NHL games in a single season, but he’s already taken part in 43 contests in 2013-14 and is getting some time off to readjust after representing Finland in the Olympics. Part of what Boston would gain by securing the division title with time to spare would be the luxury of frequently resting Rask before what the Bruins hope will be another lengthy playoffs run.

Buffalo will counter with Jhonas Enroth as he enters a critical part of his career. If Miller is traded or leaves as an unrestricted free agent this summer, then Enroth will have a chance to establish himself as the Sabres’ starting goaltender. He hasn’t had an ideal season, but a strong showing against Boston following the break would be a meaningful step in the right direction.

For the Sabres, steps like that are the best they can hope for. If they end up spoiling other teams objectives at the same time, then that would be the icing on the cake for them.

Bruins charting the progress of goalie prospect Malcolm Subban

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Like most young goalies moving from the world of junior hockey to the professional levels, Malcolm Subban possesses raw skill and ability. Now it’s a matter of developing that skill and adding the quality of better positional play, which is happening right now in the American Hockey League.

Subban, the Boston Bruins’ first-round pick, 24th overall, in the 2012 NHL Draft, has played in 21 games this season with the Providence Bruins, and is among the top-10 AHL goalies in goals-against average (2.27) and save percentage (.921).

The NHL Bruins, even with some solid goaltenders ahead of the 20-year-old Subban in Tuukka Rask and Chad Johnson, like what they’ve seen from their young puck-stopping prospect down in the minors. But plenty of work still lies ahead.

“There are some areas technically Bob (Essensa, the B’s goalie coach) has been working with him. I think overall the adjustment to the pro game has been a bit of an eye-opener at times for him,” Bruins’ assistant general manager Don Sweeney told The Boston Herald.

“His athleticism is pretty natural and he relies on it heavily. I think Bob is tweaking things to try to get him to be a little more technical — allow pucks to hit him, rather than being explosive on every save.”

Bruins’ GM Chiarelli pleased with youth, depth on the blue line

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Boston Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli certainly likes the direction his team is going in, especially on the blue line.

And that’s without the services of the steady Dennis Seidenberg, out since Dec. 27 and done for the season with a torn ACL and MCL in his right knee. It’s also with a relatively inexperience group of young defensemen, including the likes of Torey Krug and Dougie Hamilton.

But even with Boston’s improving and strong play on the back end, Chiarelli hasn’t ruled out adding another defenseman when the roster freeze ends at the conclusion of the Sochi Olympics and the NHL stretch drive begins.

“There are really not that many players available, so beggars can’t be choosers really at this point,” Chiarelli told CSNNE.com.

“With each passing game, I see our D maturing, I see them making fewer mistakes, and it makes it a little easier on me. But I always feel that we need eight good NHL defenders going in to the playoffs.

“While I’m certainly not going to replace [Dennis Seidenberg], he’s too good and those players aren’t available, you’d like to think that there is a player with a little bit of Seids’ [Dennis Seidenberg] defending that we could find, and [that could] help us. But this year’s been a story about our depth, and I’ve been happy with it.”

The Bruins, Stanley Cup champs in 2011 and finalists in 2013, along with the Pittsburgh Penguins are the easy favorites to emerge from the Eastern Conference later this spring.

The Bruins have opened up a seven-point lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Atlantic Division and are five points back of the Penguins in the East.

Bruins’ Paille leaves game after second period (Updated)

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Boston Bruins’ forward Daniel Paille has left Saturday’s game against the Ottawa Senators, the club announced at the start of the third period via Twitter.

At the time, there was no specific update on why he had left the game, or if he had suffered an injury. Paille’s last shift came at the end of the second period, with the Bruins ahead at the time by three goals.

In 49 games this season, the 29-year-old Paille has eight goals and 13 points.

Updated: Paille left the game for precautionary reasons, but Bruins head coach Claude Julien believed Paille “should be fine.”