Bruins will be tough test for Sabres

BOSTON -- The Boston Bruins-Buffalo Sabres rivalry was reignited last Nov. 12 when Bruins winger Milan Lucic raced in for a loose puck and barreled over Sabres goalie Ryan Miller, which led Miller to take a swing at Lucic but stirred little response from Miller's teammates.

The Bruins went on to pummel the Sabres 6-2.

Following the game, Miller had some choice words for Lucic.

“I’m not going to really get into that,” Miller said. “I just stuck around because I just want to say what a piece of [expletive] I think Lucic is. Fifty pounds on me, and he runs me like that. It’s unbelievable. Everyone in this city sees him as a big, tough, solid player. I respected him for how hard he played. That was gutless. Gutless, piece of [expletive].”

After almost two weeks of build-up for the "revenge game" -- during which time the Sabres' guts and team chemistry were questioned -- Paul Gaustad dropped the gloves with Lucic 1:23 into the game, and was disposed of with ease by the burly Bruins winger. The Sabres ended up losing again, 4-3 in a shootout.

The Bruins went on to win the season series with their old Adams Division rivals 4-1-1, and Buffalo general manager Darcy Regier focused his offseason on improving the Sabres' toughness. Pesky players such as Gaustad and Patrick Kaleta were not going to be enough, so Regier signed 6-foot-8, 270-pound enforcer John Scott as well as another pest, but one who can fight, in Steve Ott.

The Sabres realized that the only way to hang with what Bruins coach Claude Julien calls "heavy" teams such as the Bruins, Flyers, Rangers and Devils is to get bigger and play more physical hockey. When Scott signed with Buffalo, he referenced the Lucic-Miller incident and promised there would be no lack of response this season should something similar occur.

"Hopefully, with me next year, that doesn't happen," Scott told the Buffalo News. "If it does happen, there's a different outcome."

The Sabres enter Thursday's meeting with the Bruins in last place in the Northeast Division with a 2-3-1 record, losing Tuesday against Toronto with less than a second remaining in overtime. One reason has been the sub par play of Miller and he knows he needs to be better for the Sabres to turn things around.

“I just didn't feel like I gave the guys much help tonight,” Miller told reporters after Tuesday's loss. “We get three goals and we carry the lead. I've got to make a play, make more saves. I didn't have it tonight. I just didn't have it, for whatever reason. It was definitely the kind of game I need to show up for and be better.”

While Thursday's game figures to be physical, the Sabres will be without Kaleta, who injured his neck and was hospitalized Tuesday when he was boarded by Toronto’s Mike Brown. After being released from the hospital Wednesday, Kaleta did not travel to Boston with his team.

Nonetheless, there will be plenty of intrigue with Ott and Scott now wearing the Sabres sweater.