With 11 games remaining before the two-week Olympic break, Boston Bruins bench boss Claude Julien issued his team a challenge: to take one game at a time and get back to the basics and play Bruins hockey.
Challenge accepted. The Bruins racked up 18 out of a possible 22 points (8-1-2) before the break and currently sit atop the Atlantic Division and second overall in the Eastern Conference. The push towards the playoffs and hopefully yet another Stanley Cup run begins Wednesday night in Buffalo at the First Niagara Center against the Sabres.
The game is the fourth of five in the season between the two division rivals. The Bruins have won two of the first three matchups, including a 4-1 triumph on December 21 in the last meeting. The game will be the first time since February 8 that the Bruins have competed on the ice together. All but five Bruins will be completely rested as Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, Tuukka Rask, David Krejci and Loui Eriksson represented their respective countries in the Sochi Olympics. All but Rask will be with the team in Buffalo. Wingers Jarome Iginla and Brad Marchand will look to remain hot to lead the Bruins offensive attack.
Goalie Ryan Miller could be playing his last games in Buffalo as the Sabres enter Wednesday night in the cellar of the Atlantic Division with 40 points, 38 behind the Bruins. With the trade deadline looming, Miller’s name has been a hot topic among contending teams needing help between the pipes. Miller made 36 saves in the Sabres 3-2 Tuesday night over the Carolina Hurricanes.
With Tuukka Rask remaining in Boston, Chad Johnson gets the nod in net and will be making his 15 start of the season. Johnson has been impressive in limited action on the season, posting an 11-3 record and a 2.13 GAA and a .924 save percentage.
Prediction: Bruins 3-2
This one is not even close on paper, but that’s why the games are settled on the ice. The Bruins have too much veteran leadership and appear to be a team on a mission over the last month of play to have a letdown. Miller will keep the Sabres close but in the end, the Bruins come away with two points.