The Boston Bruins may be atop the Northeast Division, but they feel they're putting some recent struggles behind them.
Ryan Miller is one of the reasons the Buffalo Sabres are gaining momentum.
The Bruins look to win back-to-back games for the first time in almost a month by beating the division rival Sabres again Wednesday night.
Boston (33-16-2) is trying to build on Sunday's 4-1 victory at Washington after failing to pull away in the Northeast race due to a 4-5-1 stretch since last winning consecutive contests Jan. 10-12.
"I think overall we're starting, the last couple of days, to go in the right direction and started to play the type of hockey the Boston Bruins play," goaltender Tim Thomas told the team's official website.
Thomas is certainly helping, winning four of his last five starts after making 35 saves against the Capitals. That may be reason enough for him to be back in net Wednesday, and he's also 4-0-2 in his last six meetings with the Sabres (22-24-6), including wins in both matchups this season.
Thomas made 31 saves before stopping all five shootout attempts in a 4-3 victory at Buffalo on Nov. 23.
Miller missed that meeting with a concussion suffered when he was hit by Milan Lucic in a 6-2 loss at Boston on Nov. 12. The rest of the Sabres were criticized for not going after the Bruins' left wing, but Paul Gaustad fought him in the following matchup.
Miller appears to be finally putting that injury behind him, winning three of his last four starts with a 1.18 goals-against average and one shutout. Prior to that stretch, he was 6-9-2 with a 3.32 GAA since returning.
He turned in another strong performance Saturday, making 35 saves and one more in the shootout of a 4-3 win over the New York Islanders.
The victory gave Miller 235 for his career, breaking a tie with Dominik Hasek for the most in franchise history.
"He gives us a chance every night. We're excited and happy for him because he's an elite goalie," center Jason Pominville said. "I'm glad he was rewarded."
Pominville and the rest of the Sabres may be just as thrilled when coach Lindy Ruff is able to return to the bench. Assistant James Patrick will coach this game in place of Ruff, who broke three ribs when he was upended by defenseman Jordan Leopold in an on-ice collision during Monday's practice.
"He still has his sense of humor," Patrick said Tuesday when asked about Ruff, who still hopes to attend the game. "He was telling jokes in the hospital. He told the nurse that he had to cancel his dance lesson.
"We're going to prepare the team like normal. We're going to do everything we can to get ready to win a game. And if (Ruff) isn't behind the bench, we're confident that we can handle it."
Buffalo may also be without Tomas Vanek for a third consecutive game due to an upper-body injury, leaving the team without its top scorer with 19 goals.
Gaustad is providing some unexpected scoring punch with two goals and two assists in the last three games, matching his point total from the previous 23.
Boston is looking for another strong performance from Tyler Seguin, who has four goals and three assists in four meetings with the Sabres, including one of each at Buffalo in November. The second-year center leads the Bruins with 20 goals.