Boston Bruins

Dec 31, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron (37) congratulates teammates after their 3-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden. (Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports)

By Ty Anderson,

The Bruins are hoping their patient approach will pay off, as Patrice Bergeron, who has missed the last two games with a mix of lower-body injury and load management, is expected to suit up for Thursday’s game with the Sabres.

“Unless something happens between now and then, I think I’m ready to go and I’ll be playing tonight,” Bergeron said following the team’s morning skate on Thursday.

The 34-year-old Bergeron has eight goals and 19 points in 19 games this year, and enters Thursday’s head-to-head with 14 goals and 40 points in 70 career games against the Sabres.

With Bergeron expected back in action, Brett Ritchie is expected to sit out as he deals with a “flare-up” of the infection that put him on the shelf for five games before he made his return to the lineup on Tuesday. That will keep Par Lindholm in the lineup, and move Charlie Coyle to the right side of the B’s second line combination of Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci.

Tuukka Rask will get the start in the Boston net. Rask turned aside 25 shots in Tuesday’s 5-1 win over the Devils, and enters play with nine wins and a .930 save percentage through 13 appearances this season. Rask, who earned his first playoff series win against the Sabres back in 2010, holds a 15-7-1 record and .932 save percentage in 25 career games against Buffalo.

This is the first of four meetings between the Bruins and Sabres this season, and the Sabres come to town in yet another free-fall after a strong start, with just two wins in their last 10 contests. But it certainly hasn’t been for a lack of trying, as the Sabres  added winger Jimmy Vesey and defenseman Colin Miller to their group in the offseason. The team also signed B’s deadline pickup Marcus Johansson, but Johansson currently finds himself on the injured reserve with an upper-body injury.

Here are the complete lines and pairings for the Bruins…

Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak

Jake DeBrusk – David Krejci – Charlie Coyle

Anders Bjork – Par Lindholm – Danton Heinen

Joakim Nordstrom – Sean Kuraly – Chris Wagner

Zdeno Chara – Charlie McAvoy

Matt Grzelcyk – Brandon Carlo

Urho Vaakanainen – Connor Clifton

Tuukka Rask

Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.