BOSTON – The Buffalo Sabres hoped to get a better playoff start than splitting the first two games at home and losing their top goal scorer.

Now they have to play tonight in Boston where the Bruins may be shaking their struggles at home. They may even treat their fans to a newfound scoring touch after a 5-3 victory Saturday.

“I think it gives us confidence,” Boston’s Milan Lucic said Sunday. “We have to realize that we were relentless and we played like a determined hockey club and we’ve got to keep that up.”

The Bruins, the NHL’s second-lowest scoring team in the regular season, beat the Sabres after dropping the opener 2-1 two days earlier. What made Game 2 more damaging for Buffalo was the loss of Thomas Vanek with an apparent left foot injury.

Buffalo Coach Lindy Ruff said Sunday it’s doubtful Vanek will play tonight, but Vanek was confident he’d return soon. “(Vanek) is hard to replace, but one player doesn’t make a team, and you can say that about any one guy in our lineup,” defenseman Steve Montador said. “We want to continue to play hard, play our system.”

The Bruins know what it’s like to lose a key offensive player. Marc Savard, their top playmaker, was limited by injuries to 41 games and is still sidelined with a concussion after taking a blind-side hit from Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke on March 7.

Boston scored just 206 goals, two more than Calgary. But the Bruins also allowed the second-fewest goals, 200. New Jersey was the stingiest teams with 191.

In Vanek’s absence, first-line center Tim Connolly becomes more important to the Sabres. Buffalo’s second-leading scorer, Connolly missed the last nine games of the regular season with a foot injury but played in both postseason games.

“I definitely can play better,” he said. “The first couple of games I didn’t get a lot accomplished out there, especially offensively.

“It’s good sometimes to get on the road during the playoffs. You can really just go there and focus on playing the game. I personally like playing on the road, especially in the playoffs.”

After beating Philadelphia 2-1 in the Winter Classic at Fenway Park on New Year’s Day, the Bruins lost 10 straight games at TD Garden, their regular home. But in their last three home games, they played well in a 1-0 loss to Florida then beat Buffalo 3-1 and Carolina 4-2.

“We won the last couple games, but the other games before, too, some of them that we lost, we were dominant,” Bruins Coach Claude Julien said. “So it’s not that we’ve played terrible here. We weren’t getting results there for a while. But I think our team feels pretty confident in our home building.”


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