The Boston Bruins return from the Olympic break looking to pick up where they left off, but they’ll have to do it without Tuukka Rask.
With Rask resting in Boston, the Atlantic Division-leading Bruins go for an eighth win in 10 tries Wednesday night against the last-place Buffalo Sabres.
Boston (37-16-4) had five players compete at the Olympics in Sochi, and Patrice Bergeron (Canada) is returning with a gold medal while Loui Eriksson (Sweden) earned silver and Rask (Finland) got bronze.
Coach Claude Julien also won gold as an assistant with Canada.
"I’m ready to go here, and I’m looking forward to getting back with my team and getting back into games," Julien told the team’s official website. "Right now I feel no effects, and if anything, the excitement over there really energized me coming back, and I’m looking forward to trying to accomplish the same thing here with this Bruins team."
The Bruins had put together a 7-1-1 run, and entered the layoff by romping Ottawa 7-2 on Feb. 8.
Bergeron and Eriksson are expected to be available, but Rask is being rested before likely returning against Washington at home Saturday.
"Bergy and Loui are meeting us at the plane. They’re going to come and play," Julien said. "With Tuukka, I’ll use (Chad) Johnson tomorrow and (Niklas) Svedberg will back him up. So we’ve left Tuukka behind."
Johnson has won five straight starts behind a 1.80 goals-against average, making 26 saves against the Senators earlier this month. However, he’s given up six goals on 39 shots while splitting two games at Buffalo this season.
The Bruins haven’t played the Sabres (16-34-8) since a 4-1 home victory on Dec. 21, behind David Krejci’s goal and assist. The center has nine points over his past eight meetings with the Sabres.
He had three in five games for the Czech Republic in Sochi.
Milan Lucic is also looking to continue his scoring surge, recording four goals and setting up five others in eight games before the break. The left wing has three goals and one assist in this season’s three meetings with the Sabres, finding the net Dec. 21.
Buffalo owns the fewest points in the NHL, but it’s trying to win back-to-back games for the first time since beating the Bruins on Dec. 19.
Christian Ehrhoff put them in position to match that feat, scoring his second goal with 44 seconds left in regulation to cinch Tuesday’s 3-2 win over Carolina.
It’s unclear if Ryan Miller, who had 36 saves, will be back in net or even on the roster.
General manager Tim Murray acknowledged he’s shopping around the 2010 Vezina Trophy winner in the hopes of dealing him before next Wednesday’s trade deadline.
"I’m trying to take the approach to take things as they come right now and be positive and play hockey," Miller said. "It’s a lot of fun to play and win. I’m going to try to enjoy these kind of moments where you can help make a difference."
Miller has done plenty of that at home against the Bruins, going 19-5-4 with a 2.14 GAA in 28 games, including the playoffs.
Backup Jhonas Enroth is 0-4-2 with a 3.85 GAA in seven games against Boston, making 35 saves Dec. 21. That’s part of his 14-game losing streak (0-10-4) in 16 appearances since beating Florida on Oct. 25 – his only win of the season.