The Sabres' struggles in First Niagara Center -- an NHL-worst 9-15-2 record at home -- have been a major talking point all season. Tonight's game here against Boston is a big task, because the Bruins are one of the league's best clubs on the road.
While Boston has inexplicably struggled to an 11-13-3 mark in TD Garden, the Bruins are 15-5-3 away from home, second in the Eastern Conference to Washington's 17-5-2 mark outside of Verizon Center.
"I have no explanation more than we've played better and we've played a better 60-minute game,' Bruins coach Claude Julien said after his team skated today. "At home, we've had some slip-ups. ... we haven't been good for 60 minutes and we've let games slip away from us. It's resulted in some pretty crushing losses."
One came Tuesday night, when the Bruins blew a 3-1 third-period lead and suffered a 4-3 overtime loss to Toronto. It also happened Dec. 26 against the Sabres, when another 3-1 lead disappeared under Jack Eichel's avalanche of points over the final 10 minutes that produced a 6-3 Buffalo win.
"There's ups and downs in a game," Julien said. "We're not going to be perfect, the other team is not going to be perfect. There's mistakes in games. It's about managing the game better. When you have a lead, let's not make it easy for the other team to come back. Make them earn their goals, let's play the right way, do the right things at the right time."
Boston is 5-1-1 in its last seven games in Buffalo. With tonight's game, the Bruins are opening a stretch where seven of their next nine are on the road. They're fourth in the Atlantic Division via tiebreaker (even with Detroit in points) and just one point up on Pittsburgh and New Jersey in the wild-card race.
All the upcoming road games might normally be a daunting task. The way this season has gone, they might work to the Bruins advantage.
"It's nice to know we're capable of winning on the road but you've still got to win those games," Julien said. "It's getting tougher and tougher now with the games at this stage of the season. Teams are really all playing well, playing hard and battling for something. It's not as easy as it was at the beginning of the year and we're really going to have to battle hard on the road and make up for some of those home losses by continuing to be good on the road."
The Bruins are expected to start Tuukka Rask in goal. He's 7-5-1 in his career against the Sabres with a 2.47 goals-against average and .920 save percentage -- but hasn't played a game here since Feb. 24, 2012. He only played one of the four meetings against Buffalo last season, a 4-3 overtime win in Boston, and did not play in the first matchup this year.