Given whom they’re facing next, the Boston Bruins may be able to quickly forget the sting of a rare road loss and end a cross-country trek on a positive note.
The Bruins are expected to have their latest acquisition in the lineup as they look to extend a lengthy winning streak at KeyBank Center when they meet the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday evening.
Boston completed a blockbuster trade with the New York Rangers on Sunday morning, bringing in All-Star forward Rick Nash for three players and a pair of draft picks.
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The 33-year-old Nash, who has 18 goals this season and 434 in his career, is expected to join the Bruins in Buffalo and be in the lineup as they attempt to bounce back from a rare road defeat.
Boston (37-14-8) lost in regulation for only the third time in its last 22 road games, 4-3 to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday. Tuukka Rask gave up a goal to Ron Hainsey with 1:23 to play and it withstood a video review.
“We didn’t have a good game,” the Bruins winger told the league’s official website. “They came to play better than we did tonight.”
Marchand has a team-high three goals on the trip — no other player has more than one. He leads the team with 24 goals and 57 points in 46 games.
Linemate Patrice Bergeron (27 goals, 27 assists) assisted on both Marchand’s tallies, but reportedly left Air Canada Centre in a walking boot. His status for this game is not yet known.
Boston is in third place in Atlantic Division, one point behind Toronto and five points behind the Tampa Bay Lightning. However, the Bruins have five games in hand over the Leafs and three over the league-leading Bolts.
Even after splitting the first four games of a trip that started in Western Canada, Boston stands a good chance of narrowing those gaps against their division rivals. The Bruins have won seven in a row in Western New York since dropping a 5-4 decision in overtime Feb. 26, 2014, and owns a 22-8 scoring edge during the streak.
Marchand has appeared in all seven games and leads the Bruins with five assists and eight points.
Center Ryan Spooner, who had a team-best four goals in the past five games against Buffalo, was part of the package sent to New York for Nash that included forward Matt Beleskey, prospect defenseman Ryan Lindgren, a 2018 first-round draft choice and a seventh-round pick in 2019.
Rask (24-11-14, 2.21 goals-against average, .921 save percentage, two shutouts) has alternated losses and wins in five starts after winning eight in a row between Jan. 13 and Feb. 6. He’s won all three of his starts in Buffalo during Boston’s winning streak, posting a 1.63 GAA and .948 save percentage.
Anton Khudobin (13-3-4, 2.33, .922) collected 36 saves to help lift Boston to a 3-0 victory Oct. 19 in Buffalo. He is 9-1-2, 2.07, .933 in 12 road starts.
Two other goaltenders — Niklas Svedberg and Jonas Gustavsson — combined for the other three wins with Svedberg, now in the Minnesota Wild organization, picking up two victories including a shutout.
Buffalo (18-33-11), which has the fewest points in the Eastern Conference with 47 and second-fewest in the league behind the Arizona Coyotes, will try to avoid its fifth loss in six games.
Roster changes are coming. With the league’s trade deadline Monday afternoon, winger Evander Kane should expect to be held out of action for the second straight game if he’s not dealt before the puck drops.
“It’s always difficult when you come to these situations,” coach Phil Housley told the Buffalo News on Saturday prior to the Sabres’ 5-1 loss to the Washington Capitals. “You’re taking 20 goals out of the lineup but I understand the business part of it.”
Kane, a pending unrestricted free agent, has 177 goals in nine NHL seasons since being selected fourth overall by the Atlanta Thrashers in the 2009 NHL Draft.
“We’ll see what happens. If something happens, I wish him the best,” Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner told the Buffalo News.
Buffalo also remains without top scorer Jack Eichel (ankle) until mid-March at the soonest.
Sam Reinhart scored Saturday for Buffalo, which has handed the Bruins two of their 11 total losses at home this season. Reinhart is one of six players with two points, while Kane and Benoit Pouliot each have two goals in the season series.
Lehner (13-23-8, 2.95, .910, three shutouts) made 32 saves Saturday, but lost for the fourth time in five starts. He’s stopped 57 of 62 shots while splitting two games versus Boston in 2017-18.
Chad Johnson (4-10-3, 3.41, .890) turned aside 25 shots in a 4-2 victory over the Bruins on Feb. 10.
Buffalo is 3-7-2 and Boston is 6-3-2 in the back ends of games on consecutive nights.