Rasmus Ristolainen (55) and Johan Larsson (22) squeeze Boston’s Patrice Bergeron on Dec. 29. ©2017, Hickling Images, Olean Times Herald

Improved Sabres looking up at Bruins

BUFFALO – Having played eight seasons in the old Adams Division, coach Phil Housley understands the Sabres-Bruins rivalry well. Back then, the foes played each other eight times a season and played two memorable playoff series in 1983 and 1988.

“The Buffalo-Boston games have always been physical,” Housley said this morning. “It’s a big divisional game. … They’re in a pretty good spot right now.”

The third-place Bruins are five spots ahead of the last-place Sabres entering tonight’s Atlantic Division tilt. The Sabres have played two more games (33) than the Bruins but trail them by 14 points.

Still, the Sabres won their earlier meeting 5-4 in overtime, roaring back from two three-goal deficits Oct. 21.

The Bruins, however, have gone 13-7-5 since then. They shellacked Columbus 7-2 on Monday at home.

“They made a big commitment (to) their play without the puck,” Housley said of what has changed about the Bruins.

The Sabres will make one lineup change up front tonight, inserting center Jacob Josefson, who has missed 24 of the last 27 games with an ankle injury.

Housley said Josefson “solidifies us down the middle.” The Swede will center Jordan Nolan and Evan Rodrigues tonight.

To make room for Josefson, winger Scott Wilson will be scratched. The Sabres are 2-1-3 with Wilson, who was acquired from Detroit on Dec. 4, in the lineup.

“It’s just where we’re at,” Housley said. “We’re getting healthy right now, we got to make decisions and get some fresh guys back in the lineup. Things can change. I hope we don’t have to make any changes.”

Sabres goalie Robin Lehner will start tonight, his 26th appearance this season. The Sabres will also scratch defensemen Justin Falk and Josh Gorges.

Housley said winger Hudson Fasching, who was returned to the Rochester Americans on Monday, tailed off after starting his five-game recall strongly.

“He brought a big spark to our team versus Colorado (Dec. 5),” Housley said. “I think he lost a little bit of that in the speed and tenaciousness on the forecheck. All the things that we said to him were more positive, just continue to work on your game and get back up here.”

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