Bruins coach Claude Julien doesn’t usually reveal his starting goaltender before a game, but he made an exception Wednesday in Buffalo.
After the club’s morning skate, Julien confirmed that Tuukka Rask would get the nod against the Sabres.
Tim Thomas had started the past two games over the weekend and also started both games against Buffalo this season, backstopping the Bruins to a 6-2 win at the Garden on Nov. 12 and a 4-3 shootout victory in Buffalo on Nov. 23.
But Rask does have better career numbers against the Sabres, going 4-3-0 with a 2.28 GAA and a .931 save percentage against Buffalo, plus also starting all six games in Boston’s first-round win over the Sabres in the 2010 playoffs. Thomas is just 10-9-4 with a 3.09 GAA and an .899 save percentage against the Sabres.
The Bruins won’t make any other lineup changes. Nathan Horton remains out with a concussion up front and Steven Kampfer will be the healthy scratch on defense once again.
Julien is expected to open the game with the revamped lines he used in Sunday’s 4-1 win at Washington and kept together in Tuesday’s practice. That keeps Chris Kelly up with Milan Lucic and Rich Peverley, while David Krejci remains on the third line with Benoit Pouliot and Jordan Caron.
For the Sabres, Ryan Miller will play against the Bruins for the first time since getting trucked by Lucic in that first meeting on Nov. 12. Miller strayed a little too far from the crease and was barreled over by Lucic, who received no fine or suspension from the league and no retribution from any of the Sabres. Paul Guastad did fight Lucic in the next meeting, but Lucic handled that challenge easily.
Miller, meanwhile, missed the next nine games and has struggled most of the season since the incident, though he has finally flashed some of his old form of late with a 3-0-1 record and just five total goals allowed in his last four starts.
Sabres forward Thomas Vanek, out with an upper body injury, skated Wednesday morning, but will not return in this game.
“Thomas looks good,” Sabres assistant coach James Patrick said. “He’s coming along. He’s feeling a lot better than he did four to five days ago. He won’t be playing tonight, but we’ll see in the next few days.”
Patrick will take over behind the bench as head coach Lindy Ruff suffered three broken ribs in a collision with defenseman Jordan Leopold in practice on Monday.
Rob Martell and Dan O’Halloran will be the referees, with Don Henderson and Brad Kovachik working the lines.
Projected Bruins lines
Milan Lucic-Chris Kelly-Rich Peverley
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Tyler Seguin
Benoit Pouliot-David Krejci-Jordan Caron
Daniel Paille-Gregory Campbell-Shawn Thornton
Zdeno Chara-Johnny Boychuk
Dennis Seidenberg-Joe Corvo
Andrew Ference-Adam McQuaid
Scratches: Nathan Horton (concussion), Steven Kampfer
Projected Sabres lines
Ville Leino-Derek Roy-Jason Pominville
Nathan Gerbe-Tyler Ennis-Drew Stafford
Brad Boyes-Paul Gaustad-Patrick Kaleta
Luke Adam-Matt Ellis-Cody McCormick
Christian Ehrhoff-Tyler Myers
Robyn Regehr-Jordan Leopold
Andrej Sekera-Mike Weber
Scratches: Marc-Andre Gragnani, Thomas Vanek (upper body)