BOSTON -- We're on the scene at TD Garden for today's Sabres-Bruins matinee, the second half of the teams' back-to-back set. Faceoff is set for shortly after 1 on MSG with Rick Jeanneret on the call for the final game of the 2016 portion of the Sabres' schedule.
You know the standings part of things: A regulation loss today puts the Sabres into an Unhappy New Year with a 10-point deficit from the third-place Bruins in the Atlantic Division. You also learned yesterday that Justin Bailey will return to the Sabres' lineup after his callup from Rochester.
Here are Five Other Things to Know about today's game:
1. The Bruins are going for a slice of franchise history: This is the 285th all-time meeting between the teams in the regular season and Boston is 3-0 against the Sabres this year. In Buffalo's 46 seasons in the NHL, it has never been swept in a season series by the Bruins. In fact, the Sabres are the only NHL team Boston has never swept. That changes with a Boston win today. Buffalo is 121-119-44 against the Bruins since entering the NHL in 1970.
2. Things could get chippy (again): The Bruins are not happy with William Carrier's hit on David Backes Thursday night. Neither player will be in the lineup today (Carrier with a hand injury on an ensuing fight with Adam McQuaid and Backes with an apparent concussion).
"I would expect it to," coach Dan Bylsma said today when asked if things might be testy. "Both sides. Especially in the beginning part of that game, the emotions were there. There was a lot of jawing back and forth. It's the type of scenario when you play back-to-back games against a team, you start to build a little animosity."
"When a guy takes a shot at a guy, at a teammate like that, things get out of control," Boston's Brad Marchand told Bruins reporters before the game this morning. "We feel like it was a bit of a bad hit and wasn't taken care of probably the way it should have been by the refs."
3. Lehner gets the call (again): It will be three straight starts and five of six overall for Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner, who is expected to meet Boston's Tuukka Rask. And look for Lehner to get the heavy work in goal going forward because the Sabres do not play another back-to-back set of games until Jan. 12-13 in Tampa Bay and Carolina.
"Sometimes you see a 60/40 split and sometimes it's a little greater than that," Bylsma said. "With this schedule, you're probably see something a little greater than that for Robin."
Lehner is 8-11-5 for the season with a 2.49 goals-against average and .922 save percentage. Backup Anders Nilsson is 5-3-3/2.47/.925. Lehner's last two months have been virtually identical. In November he went 3-5-2/2.30/.924. In December, he's 3-4-2/2.65/.924.
4. The penalty kill keeps killing the Sabres (again): Buffalo enters the game last in the NHL at 74 percent and 28th on the road at 72.1 percent. In the last two games, the Sabres saw 30th-ranked Detroit end its 0-for-27 run on the man advantage and was burned by a goal from Boston's David Krecji, a member of the league's 28th-rated PP unit.
The Sabres have given up a power-play goal in three straight games and are killing penalties at a pathetic 63.6 percent rate in December (21 of 33). The Krejci goal was similar to a lot the Sabres have seen of late. Take a look:
The Sabres simply have to start finding loose pucks in tight.
"Some of that is our battle level, some of that is our need to bear down in those situations, some of that is where our positioning is," Bylsma said. "You can't run around a pile and sniff out a puck. There's release points, danger points and the back side of those piles we need someone to be at. A number of goals have been when the puck is released out of the feat, the mess, the sticks to the weak side and they've found what looks to be an easy goal."
5. Some Sabres are riding hot streaks: Rasmus Ristolainen has 15 points, including 12 assists, in his last 13 games. Sam Reinhart is on a career-high five-game point streak (two goals, four assists) and Evander Kane has eight goals in his last 12 games -- including four in his last four contests on the road.