BOSTON – The Bruins will have their suddenly productive third line together again after all.
Benoit Pouliot returned to the ice for Thursday’s optional morning skate at the Garden and is expected to play against the Sabres after leaving Tuesday’s game in Toronto early with a lower-body injury.
"He looks good," Bruins coach Claude Julien said."He looks fine. He told us he was ready to go."
Pouliot had two assists in just 4:50 of ice time on Tuesday, following up a goal on Sunday for his first point in nine games. Linemate Jordan Caron has also emerged in the past two games, putting up 3-2-5 totals to match his entire season’s output to that point, while center Chris Kelly also added a goal on Tuesday for his first point in seven games.
Pouliot’s return will likely keep emergency call-up Max Sauve out of the lineup. Sauve has now been recalled three times in the past two weeks but has still yet to make his NHL debut.
The Bruins will still be without forward Daniel Paille (upper body) and defenseman Andrew Ference (lower body). They both took part in the morning skate but are not quite ready to return to game action.
"They're skating," Julien said. "They're not ready. They're not going to be in the lineup tonight. We'll just continue to monitor them. They looked pretty good out there today, so I'll say the same thing as I said yesterday, they're day to day and more positive than negative. Their case is looking better every day."
Julien will likely keep the same lineup as Tuesday's win, leaving defenseman Mike Mottau as a healthy scratch for the fifth straight game. Mottau has played just once since being acquired from the Islanders at the deadline, but Julien would like to get him into the lineup at some point.
"We'd like to keep everybody in the mix, but at the same time you play to win and you put the guys that have been with you for now," Julien said. "We do plan on trying to keep those guys as sharp as possible. We don't want a guy sitting out for a month and all of the sudden you get in the playoffs and you're asking him to step in."
Tim Thomas will get the start in goal again, with newcomer Marty Turco dressing as the backup in his first game with Boston.
The Sabres' goaltending situation is less clear. They did not hold a skate after beating Carolina in overtime on Wednesday. Ryan Miller has been red hot of late, but Buffalo could give Jhonas Enroth a start rather than playing Miller on back-to-back nights. Enroth has played just once in the last 20 games, but with Buffalo battling for its playoff life, the Sabres could just keep riding Miller.
Buffalo is expected to be without tough guy Cody McCormick (upper body), while defenseman Andrej Sekera is questionable with the flu. Alexander Sulzer will play if Sekera can't go.
The Bruins won’t have much sympathy for the Sabres on the injury front, with Boston missing Nathan Horton, Rich Peverley and Tuukka Rask in addition to Ference and Paille.
"Those are things I can't control," Julien said. "The way I look at it, it is a great challenge, not just for me, but also for the players. This is where you build your character. You go out there and compete hard, and for certain guys you've got to maybe play a bigger role, and it helps you along the way. By the time you get to the end of the year and you’re a healthy team, all of those things have been positive things for your hockey club."
Ian Walsh and Tim Peel will be the referees, with Derek Amell and Tony Sericolo working the lines.
Projected Bruins lines
Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Tyler Seguin
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Brian Rolston
Benoit Pouliot-Chris Kelly-Jordan Caron
Lane MacDermid-Gregory Campbell-Shawn Thornton
Zdeno Chara-Johnny Boychuk
Dennis Seidenberg-Joe Crovo
Greg Zanon-Adam McQuaid
Scratches: Daniel Paille (upper body), Andrew Ference (lower body), Nathan Horton (concussion), Rich Peverley (knee), Tuukka Rask (groin), Mike Mottau, Max Sauve
Projected Sabres lines
Thomas Vanek-Derek Roy-Jason Pominville
Tyler Ennis-Cody Hodgson-Drew Stafford
Nathan Gerbe-Ville Leino-Patrick Kaleta
Matt Ellis-Brad Boyes-Corey Tropp
Jordan Leopold-Tyler Myers
Robyn Regehr-Mike Weber
Christian Ehrhoff-Alexander Sulzer
Scratches: Cody McCormick (upper body), Andrej Sekera (flu)