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Bruins vs. Sabres: What to Watch For in a Matchup of Physical Division Foes

January 31st, 2013 at 4:54 PM
By Peter Dawson

Tonight, the Bruins try to remain unbeaten in regulation as they take on the Sabres in the first of three straight games against divisional opponents. After defeating the Devils in a shootout on Tuesday, the B’s will try and maintain the same level of defensive intensity that has powered the black and gold to the top of the Eastern Conference.

1) The Sabres have added some physicality with the Bruins in mind

Since Peter Chiarelli’s assumed the GM duites in 2006, the Bruins have developed one of the league’s meanest rosters. The front lines range from bully (see Lucic, Milan) beast (see Chara, Zdeno), pest (see Marchand, Brad) and fighter (see Thorton, Shawn). Along with a deep collection of grinders, these might just be your granddad of the old Big Bad Bruins of the 70’s. These recent Bruins have intimated there way to a playoff spot in five consecutive seasons. This year however, the Sabres have added forwards Steve Ott and John Scott. Ott is nearly always in the top ten in the league in penalty minutes. Scott meanwhile, is one of the physically imposing presences in the league at 6’7 250lbs. Given the two teams mutual disdain for one another, these two will likely see a lot of ice time against any number of the Bruins lines.

2) Milan Lucic versus the Sabres

After winger Milan Lucic took a questionable run at Sabres goalie Ryan Miller last season there has certainly been no love lost between the two. After the game Miller called Lucic “gutless” and “a piece of [expletive].” Lucic is at his best when he is playing an aggressive style of hockey, so it is unlikely he will take any shots from the Sabres lying down. Given that the Sabres are in last place in the weak Northeast Division, a couple of scuffles or fights might just breathe life into their disappointing start. With that in mind, Lucic will undoubtedly be the target of any incendiary play.

3) Can the Bruins goaltending remain outstanding?

Thus far, Tukka Rask has been nothing short of outstanding. On the whole the team has the league’s best-ranked penalty kill (96.4 percent) and has averaged the fourth lowest goals against average in the league (2.0). Rask specifically has a 1.74 goals against average (6th in the league), has a .932 save percentage (5th in the league), and even his a .778 save percentage in games decided by a shootout (in which the Bruins have won 2 out of 3). While the season is still young, Rask has, thus far, filled the large shoes left by Tim Thomas. Perhaps just as encouraging was the relief start provided by back Anton Khudobin, who stopped 29 shots, and repeatedly bailed out his sluggish teammates in a 5-3 win over an offensively talented Hurricanes club. While much of the Bruins roster has some room for improvement, fans should be more than happy for these two goalies to hold the status quo.

Tags: Boston, Boston Bruins, Hockey, NHL

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