Sabres vs. Bruins Odds
Boston, MA (AP) - The Boston Bruins have won five of six while scoring 29 goals, but it would be just as easy to look back at their first game this month as the one that helped them discover their offensive touch.
Thanks to Buffalo's Drew Stafford, that breakout performance didn't even net Boston two points.
The winger's hat trick in that wild win was his second in 18 days against the Bruins, but a groin injury will keep Stafford sidelined Thursday night at TD Garden as the Sabres seek a third straight victory in the series.
According to NHL odds and oddsmakers from online sports book Sportsbook.com have made the Bruins -154 money line favorites for Thursday's game against the Sabres. Current NHL Public Betting Information shows that 53% of more than 290 bets for this game have been placed on the Bruins -154.
Boston (26-13-7) has scored six goals or more in three of its last five games, including a 7-0 home win over Carolina on Monday as Zdeno Chara notched his first career hat trick.
That game opened a home-and-home set and the finale in Raleigh wasn't as easy, but Boston - averaging a league-high 4.0 goals in January - emerged with a 3-2 victory. Milan Lucic's game-winner midway through the third period was the Bruins' fourth power-play goal in two games.
"I knew they would have a pushback," said goaltender Tim Thomas, who won his fourth straight start to improve to 22-4-6. "I thought we would handle it better than we did. But in the long run, we handled it well, because we found a way to win. "
After averaging 2.33 goals in its last nine games of December, Boston looked like it was on its way to a victory on New Year's Day in Buffalo, up 6-5 late in the third period. But Stafford tied the game with 28 seconds left to complete his fourth career hat trick, then scored in a shootout to help the Sabres (20-20-5) to a 7-6 victory.
Seven of Stafford's 15 goals this season have come against Boston - including another hat trick Dec. 15 in a 3-2 win - but the Bruins probably won't have to face him Thursday. The top-line forward is expected to miss this game and Friday's matchup with the New York Islanders due to a groin problem suffered early in the first period of a 2-1 overtime win over Montreal on Tuesday.
Stafford already has missed 15 games this season due to upper-body injuries, and his absence appears to be significant. In the 30 games Stafford has played, the Sabres have averaged 2.73 goals and converted 20.3 percent of their power-play chances. In the 15 games he's missed, Buffalo has averaged 2.2 goals while scoring just 14.0 percent of the time with the man advantage.
The Sabres' power play has been rather productive the last three games. Five of their eight goals have come with the man advantage, with Thomas Vanek contributing a point on four of those.
Buffalo has picked up 13 points in its last nine games, and knows its upcoming stretch is huge considering it is eight points out of the East's No. 8 seed. Following the visit to Boston, seven of its next 10 opponents are playoff outsiders."We have got to have some consistency here," winger Tyler Ennis said. "We've got to build off this."
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