After missing the last five games due to an undisclosed injury, Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller is officially a go for tonight’s (merciful) finale to a three-in-four stretch in Buffalo against the Sabres.
The Bruins expect this to be the start of a mini-run for the 33-year-old Miller, too, as the spacing between games will prevent Miller from being an in-again, out-again presence through the final three games of this current road swing.
“We expect him to go in Sunday against Pittsburgh [and] we expect to play Tuesday against Pittsburgh,” Bruins head coach Cassidy said Friday. “It’s the back-to-backs that were the issue.”
The Bruins have repeatedly mentioned that Miller’s latest absence is unrelated to the knee issues that have plagued Miller for the last two calendar years, and that this was something unrelated that simply needed to “calm down.”
“We are gonna manage his days on the ice, but once the puck drops, he’s gonna play,” said Cassidy. “There’s no, ‘Well, we’re gonna keep him at 18 minutes vs. 22 minutes. It depends on the situation, depends on time and score.”
The 6-foot-2 Miller was an absolute beast during his most recent four-game return before this latest setback, too, with nine hits, 11 blocks, and at least 20:32 of time on ice in each contest.
With Miller back, Connor Clifton will sit as a healthy scratch for the Bruins.
In net, Tuukka Rask will get the call for the Bruins. The 34-year-old Rask is coming off a 32-save shutout over the Sabres in his last outing, and has posted a 3-0-0 record and .955 save percentage since returning from his upper-body injury.
The Sabres will counter with top goaltending prospect — and get ready for this name — Ukko Pekka Luukkonen. A second-round pick of the Sabres back in 2017, UPL comes to Buffalo with a 7-5-2 record, .888 save percentage, and 3.60 goals against average in 14 games for the AHL’s Rochester Americans this season.
With a win tonight, the Bruins would extend their win streak to a season-high seven games. A win would also extend the B’s current win streak over the Sabres to 11 games, which would match New Jersey’s current streak over the Canucks as the second-longest active winning streak against one franchise. (Fun fact: The Bruins are actually in the No. 1 spot in this stat, with a still-active 16-game winning streak over the Coyotes dating back to the team’s second 2010 showdown in Prague.)
Here’s the expected lineup for the Bruins…
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Taylor Hall – David Krejci – Craig Smith
Nick Ritchie – Charlie Coyle – Jake DeBrusk
Sean Kuraly – Curtis Lazar – Chris Wagner
Matt Grzelcyk – Charlie McAvoy
Mike Reilly – Kevan Miller
Jeremy Lauzon – Steven Kampfer