Playoff-bound Bruins encounter hot Sabres

The Boston Bruins will look to continue a hot finish to the regular season and make it four consecutive victories when they play host to the Buffalo Sabres in their Thursday night home finale.

Boston (50-25-5, 105 points) enters off Tuesday’s 4-2 win over the Florida Panthers, limiting the league’s top team to three shots in the third period. The Bruins scored a pair of first-period goals within six seconds of each other and added one in each of the final two frames.

“We did a good job with (Florida),” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. “I don’t think we gave up much. Certainly in the first period they got some good looks. It didn’t look like they had their usual jump, to me. … I certainly liked the way our team performed. Even offensively, I thought we generated a lot.”

Taylor Hall and Brad Marchand had a goal and an assist each, while captain Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak each logged two assists for the Bruins, who have 50 wins for the first time since 2017-18. They have clinched at least the No. 1 wild-card position.

Linus Ullmark needed to make just 19 saves on the way to his second straight win since returning from an injury. He also is expected to start Thursday’s game.

“Against good offensive teams, that’s one of the better formulas,” Cassidy said. “If you get pucks back, check well and force them to defend, they get frustrated. I don’t know if that’s what happened, but our game was solid.”

The Bruins’ power-play woes — now 0-for-36 over 12 games — continued. Marchand did break an 11-game scoring drought with a late empty-netter against Florida.

Pastrnak and defenseman Hampus Lindholm both have played in multiple games since returning from injuries, giving the Bruins a key pre-playoff boost.

Cassidy expects to play a full lineup on Thursday, but some players could rest during Friday’s back-to-back at Toronto.

Despite being out of playoff contention, Buffalo (31-38-11, 73 points) figures to give the Bruins a stern test. The Sabres have won a season-high four consecutive games and scored 26 goals during a 5-1-0 recent stretch.

Jeff Skinner and Tage Thompson had a goal and an assist each in Saturday’s 5-3 win over the Islanders. The Sabres have been idle since.

“It’s tough to really put a single thing that’s given us success,” Skinner said. “I think each night it’s different. … But the fact that it is consistent is probably the best thing for us to grab on to because it’s hard to be like that on a consistent basis.”

Casey Mittelstadt scored the opening goal on Saturday, his fifth of the season and 12th point in the last 18 games (three goals). He missed most of the first half with an upper-body injury that required surgery.

“We’re not seeing the true Casey Mittelstadt,” Sabres coach Don Granato said recently. “We’re seeing him push through the ripple effect of a long injury and I think he’s doing a spectacular job in that.”

Goalie Craig Anderson (undisclosed injury) and Kyle Okposo (leg) have both missed recent practice time. Anderson was out for Saturday’s game, and Dustin Tokarski made 19 saves for the win.

–Field Level Media

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