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Bruins will again test Sabres' struggling PK units

The Buffalo Sabres' penalty killing units have become bedraggled. Their ugly numbers could use a boost and their next two opponents have not been dynamos on the power play.

The Boston Bruins come into KeyBank Center Saturday with the No. 23 power play in the NHL while the Washington Capitals, Monday's opponent in Verizon Center, are No. 25. But lately, every unit hitting the ice against Buffalo looks elite.

The Bruins, however, scored three power-play goals in their 4-0 win over the Sabres No. 7 in TD Garden. David Pastrnak entered Friday tied for third in the NHL with 13 goals and a team-high four of them have come with the man advantage.

The Sabres have given up a power-play goal in six of their last eight games and have fallen to 29th in the NHL at 76.6 percent. They killed off their first 18 penalties at home this season, but opponents have gone 5 for their last 10 in KeyBank Center.

"Recently we've tailed off and not come up with the big kill," coach Dan Bylsma said Friday in HarborCenter. "You can really almost pinpoint it directly to our lack of clears."

Bylsma said the Sabres failed to get the puck out of their zone five times Tuesday in Ottawa while killing penalties, leading to two Senators power play goals. They failed twice more on the Rangers' first power play Thursday, which resulted in Ryan McDonagh's goal at 16:15 of the first period. Rick Nash connected on a rebound during New York's other power play, in the second period.

"It's frustrating," said center Ryan O'Reilly. "I was obviously out there for all the goals against and it's small little details. ... It seems we make a mistake and it's in the back of our net. Going forward, we know it's got to be better."

McDonagh's floating shot from the left point came with Marcus Foligno in the penalty box for hooking. The Rangers won the faceoff and kept the puck in the Buffalo zone for 65 seconds before scoring.

"You can't give teams and power plays that much time in the zone," Bylsma said. "When you do, they're going to bite you, and they have too much recently."

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Bylsma said Robin Lehner, who left Tuesday's game early and sat out Thursday's win with a slight hip problem, will start in goal against the Bruins. Linus Ullmark was returned to Rochester after serving as the backup here Thursday.

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The Bruins will be without captain Zdeno Chara for the sixth straight game Saturday due to a lower-body injury but coach Claude Julien said Friday that the 39-year-old defenseman is day to day. Chara practiced fully on Friday. The Bruins are 2-2-1 without Chara and have given up just nine goals in five games without their No. 1 defenseman.

Former sixth-round pick Anton Blidh was called up Friday from Providence and is expected to make his NHL debut Saturday after compiling five goals, nine points and a plus-eight rating in the AHL. He has been a standout for the Bruins in September prospect tournaments here against the Sabres and Devils the last two seasons.

Standout center Patrice Bergeron did not practice Friday, with Julien only saying he was not injured. So it's unclear who Blidh would replace.
email: mharrington@buffnews.com

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