If the Bruins fear any attempt by the Sabres respond in kind to Milan Lucic's hit on Ryan Miller, they aren't showing it with how Claude Julien plans to fill out his lineup sheet for the rematch Wednesday night in Buffalo.
Julien will stick with the hot hand and start Tim Thomas in goal when the Bruins and Sabres clash with first place on the line. There was speculation that Tuukka Rask could get the start instead just in case the Sabres decided to get rough, but with what is at stake in this one, Julien has opted to stay with Thomas for a third straight start.
"The last two games he's had shutouts, so it doesn't take a brain surgeon to make that decision for tonight to go with your best goaltender," Julien told reporters after the club's morning skate on Wednesday. "Right now he's rolling pretty good."
Thomas was the difference Monday night in Montreal, stopping all 33 shots he faced in a 1-0 win over the Canadiens. Thomas also blanked the Islanders in New York on Saturday and carries three straight shutouts and a 222:16 scoreless stretch on the road into this matchup. Overall, he's 9-4-0 with a 1.77 GAA and .938 save percentage, though he is only 9-9-4 with a 3.11 GAA and an .898 save percentage in his career against Buffalo.
With Miller still out with a concussion suffered in that last meeting with Boston, Jhonas Enroth will get the start for the Sabres. He was outplaying Miller (5-6-0, 2.86 GAA, .909 save percentage) this season even before Miller was injured. Enroth is 7-2-0 with a 2.06 GAA and a .931 save percentage, but his numbers against Boston aren't pretty (0-2-0, 6.12 GAA, .839 save percentage).
The Sabres haven't made any other changes to their lineup to bulk up for battle with the Bruins. No toughness was recalled from their AHL affiliate in Rochester, and in fact Buffalo will likely have an even less physical lineup in this game than it did for the first clash in Boston.
The Sabres' primary pugilist Cody McCormick, who has four of Buffalo's 10 fighting majors this season, has missed the last three games with an upper-body injury and is expected to remain out Wednesday. Hard-nosed defenseman Mike Weber is also sidelined with an upper-body injury and 6-foot-7 defeneseman Tyler Myers is out at least a month with a broken wrist.
The Sabres will get Jochen Hecht back from a concussion for the first time this season. His return strengthens the offense but will likely weaken the Sabres physically as aggressive young forward Corey Tropp is expected to be the healthy scratch to make room for Hecht.
Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff has vowed that his team won't fail to respond to a situation like the Lucic hit on Miller again, but didn't sound like he would be trying to escalate hostilities on Wednesday.
"I'm expecting our team to come out hard in all areas," Ruff told reporters after his club's skate. "We have to play a real hard game. That's the message in all areas. Hard on the puck, hard getting it back, hard physically."
The Bruins aren't expected to make any lineup changes themselves. Benoit Pouliot was benched in the third period on Monday after taking a string of bad penalties, but it appears he will remain in the lineup. Jordan Caron and defenseman Steven Kampfer stayed out with Rask for extra work after the morning skate, usually the indication of who will be scratched that night.
Greg Kimmerly and Brad Meier will be the referees keeping a close on eye on any retaliation efforts, with Brad Kovachik and Scott Driscoll working the lines and possibly breaking up a few fights.
Projected Bruins lines
Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Nathan Horton
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Tyler Seguin
Benoit Pouliot-Chris Kelly-Rich Peverley
Daniel Paille-Gregory Campbell-Shawn Thornton
Zdeno Chara-Johnny Boychuk
Dennis Seidenberg-Joe Corvo
Andrew Ference-Adam McQuaid
Scratches: Jordan Caron, Steven Kampfer
Projected Sabres lines
Thomas Vanek- Brad Boyes-Jason Pominville
Ville Leino-Derek Roy-Drew Stafford
Nathan Gerbe-Paul Gaustad-Matt Ellis
Jochen Hecht-Luke Adam-Patrick Kaleta
Andrej Sekera-Christian Ehrhoff
Jordan Leopold-Robyn Regehr
Marc-Andre Gragnani-T.J. Brennan
Scratches: Tyler Myers (wrist), Ryan Miller (concussion), Cody McCormick (upper body), Tyler Ennis (ankle), Mike Weber (upper body), Corey Tropp
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