NHL Network Showcase: 3 Storylines for Sabres vs. Bruins

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The Buffalo Sabres and Boston Bruins face off for the eighth and final time this season Saturday (1 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN, NESN, MSG-B, NHL.TV) in the “NHL Network Showcase presented by SAP.” 

The Bruins (29-14-6) are fourth in the eight-team MassMutual East Division, six points ahead of the fifth-place New York Rangers and one behind the third-place New York Islanders. The top four teams in the division reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs, with the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins already having clinched a berth.

Boston is 6-1-0 against Buffalo, including a 5-2 win Thursday. Forward David Pastrnak scored for the Bruins in the win and is one goal from 200 in the NHL.

The Sabres (13-31-7) are last in the division, six points behind the New Jersey Devils, and failed to make the playoffs for an NHL record-tying 10th straight season (Florida Panthers, 2001-11; Edmonton Oilers, 2007-16). They are 7-13-3 since Don Granato replaced Ralph Krueger as coach March 17 and 6-8-2 in April.

Here are 3 storylines to keep an eye on: 

 

Hall, Lazar trade paying off

The Bruins are 8-2-0 after forwards Taylor Hall and Curtis Lazar were traded to Boston by Buffalo on April 12. Hall has scored eight points (five goals, three assists) and is plus-9 in 10 games, including four points (two goals, two assists) in five against the Sabres after he scored 19 (two goals, 17 assists) and was minus-21 in 37 games for Buffalo. He’s skated on the second line and helped lift the production of David Krejci (11 points; six goals, five assists since the trade) and Craig Smith (seven points; two goals, five assists). 

Lazar has scored three points (one goal, two assists) for the Bruins while settling into a bottom-six role.

 

Development phase

The Sabres have four of their first-round picks chosen after the 2013 NHL Draft on the active roster. Sam Reinhart (No. 2, 2014 NHL Draft) has scored 16 points (11 goals, five assists) in 17 April games and 23 goals in 49 games this season. Reinhart is one of 15 players in Sabres history with at least five 20-goal seasons. 

Dylan Cozens (No. 7, 2019 NHL Draft) has seven assists in his past 10 games and 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in 36 games during his rookie NHL season. Casey Mittelstadt (No. 8, 2017 NHL Draft) has scored nine goals since March 31. Rasmus Dahlin (No. 1, 2018 NHL Draft) has scored 11 points (three goals, eight assists) in his past 15 games since April 3. 

Sabres captain Jack Eichel, the No. 2 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, is out for the season because of a herniated disk in his neck and expected to be ready for next season. The center scored at least 24 goals in each of his first five NHL seasons, including a career-high 36 last season. He scored 18 points (two goals, 16 assists) in 21 games this season.

 

Bruins goalie rotation

The Bruins are in a stretch playing their final 10 regular-season games in 16 days with two sets of back to backs and no more than one day off in between games. They have three goalies available (Tuukka Rask, Jaroslav Halak and Jeremy Swayman), and Dan Vladar has received NHL experience this season. Rask is the projected postseason starter and Halak likely will be the backup. They’re also ages 34 and 35, respectively, so the challenge will be balancing game reps with rest. 

Swayman is 22 and showing he could be the future for the Bruins at the position. He’s 5-2-0 with a 1.57 goals-against average, .946 save percentage and one shutout in seven games, and likely the next man up if Rask or Halak are injured during the playoffs.

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