Good afternoon from Causeway Street, where tonight the Bruins, fresh off back-to-back wins over the Canes earlier this week, will face the Sabres, who desperately need points to inch their way back into playoff contention in the Eastern Conferernce.
As of this morn, the Lake Erie stick carriers were parked 11th in the East, eight points out of the No. 8 (read final) playoff seed in the East. That's a lot of yardage to make up in less than 12 weeks.
The Bruins will have Andrew Ference back in the lineup. Ference missed the last three games due to injury and now will sub in for Adam McQuaid, who has been playing despite a couple of niggling injuries.
''Now you give this guy an opportunity to be healthy,'' said coach Claude Julien, noting the need for McQuaid to get a break. ''I don't think there's too many players that play at 100 percent anymore.''
Look for Tuukka Rask too get the call in the Boston net. He was the first 'tender to leave the morning workout at the Vault.
Ryan Miller expected to take the Sabres net. Buffalo will be without Drew ''Hat Trick'' Stafford, sidelined by a groin injury. Stafford has 15 goals this season, a half-dozen of them against the Bruins with his hat tricks on Dec. 15 and Jan. 1. Anyone dumb enough to bet on hockey probably would adjust the line by at least a goal based on Stafford's exit.
Puck drop: 7 p.m.
Record: Bruins, 22-13-7; Sabres, 20-20-5.
TV/radio info: NESN (Jack Edwards, Andy Brickley, Naoko Funayama), 98.5 The Sports Hub (Dave Goucher, Bob Beers)
Michael Ryder-Marc Savard-Nathan Horton
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Mark Recchi
Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Tyler Seguin
Blake Wheeler-Gregory Campbell-Shawn Thornton
Zdeno Chara-Steven Kampfer
Andrew Ference-Dennis Seidenberg
Mark Stuart-Johnny Boychuk
Healthy scratches: Daniel Paille
Storylines: Bit of guesswork on those blueline pairings. Julien noted that Kampfer has had some sinus issues related to the broken nose he suffered here on Monday when smacked by Zdeno Chara's stick. If the rook's minutes have to be dialed back, the 'D' pairings could be scrambled....Milan Lucic finally scored a goal Tuesday in Carolina, his first strike since Dec. 16 game in Montreal. ''Hopefully, I can build off that and keep rolling,'' said the hulking left winger. Looch scored a goal in three of the first four games this season and, despite the recent drought, leads the club with 17 goals....Rask's record still a lackluster 4-9-1, but his goals-against (2.57) and save percentage (.926) are excellent. It would be a big boost to his ego if the Finnish stopped could win, say, three or four in a row. He has yet to collect back-to-back W's this season....Marc Savard, his game shaping up, has an assist in three of his last four games....Michael Ryder, maddeningly ineffective all last season, has a point in five of his last six games (3-2--5)....Anyone else look at Brad Marchand and think of Pat Verbeek? The way he's going of late, he could finish with 50 points this season. Because you are wondering, Patrice Bergeron finished with 39 points as a winger his rookie year.