If the Buffalo Sabres are to continue their best start in 13 years, they must find a way to record a rare victory over the Boston Bruins.
The Sabres are looking for their fourth straight win to open the season when they host the Bruins on Friday night.
Buffalo hasn’t been to the playoffs since the 2010-11 season, but there’s some early excitement that this drought could end. During their best start since opening 4-0-0 in 2008-09, the Sabres have outscored their opponents — all at home — 11-4 in non-shootout goals and killed all nine opposing power plays while the goaltending tandem of Craig Anderson and Dustin Tokarski has stopped 82 of 86 shots.
“You go through ups and downs, and you got to keep this momentum when you have it,” veteran forward Kyle Okposo told the Sabres’ official website. “So, we’re just hoping to continue that confidence for the season.”
Okposo, Tage Thompson and Zemgus Girgensons each have two goals for the Sabres, who scored three times in the third period to break open a tie game and eventually win 5-2 over Vancouver on Tuesday. Buffalo is playing its first four games of the season at home before hitting the road in five of the next six.
However, that early home stretch ends with this serious challenge against Boston, which has won two straight and 12 of the last 13 meetings with Buffalo. During that span, the Sabres have managed just four points, but recorded their lone victory at home, 6-4, last April.
“I think we need to just stick with what we’re doing,” said Sabres winger Rasmus Asplund, who scored his first goal of the season against Vancouver.
“If we do that, I think we can be a tough opponent for every team. … Boston is a (Stanley) Cup contender, and I think it’s going to be a great test for us and really see where we’re at right now.”
Boston opened with a 3-1 home win over Dallas, but now must bounce back from a rough 6-3 loss at Philadelphia on Wednesday. Down 3-1 early in the second period, ex-Sabre Taylor Hall and Brad Marchand each scored to help the Bruins tie the game against the Flyers. However, Boston fell apart both physically and mentally in the third, when it allowed Philadelphia to score three times.
“It’s losing hockey is what it is,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. “That’s how you lose games. You do dumb things and good teams come back at you.”
Despite the loss, Marchand is off to a strong start with three goals. He’s posted 23 goals with 26 assists in 52 career games versus Buffalo.
Jeremy Swayman has stopped 46 of the 52 shots he’s faced through Boston’s first two games. However, according to Boston.com, Linus Ullmark is slated to make his Bruins’ debut Friday night against his former club.
In six seasons with Buffalo, Ullmark went 50-47-13, while posting a 2.78 goals-against average and a .912 save percentage with three shutouts. He signed with Boston in late July.