The Boston Bruins had to weather some storms during their recently completed stretch of nine games in 16 days, including a rare three-game skid.
Both the busy part of the schedule and the losing streak are in the past as Boston experienced a much-needed three days away from game action. The Bruins have now won three straight games entering Thursday's date with the visiting Buffalo Sabres.
Brad Marchand entered last weekend in the midst of an eight-game goalless drought, but he's well past that now.
The Bruins captain has four goals in his past two games. He scored the game-winner in Saturday's 4-3 overtime triumph in Toronto, then delivered a third-period natural hat trick in Sunday's 3-1 win over Columbus.
"For (Marchand) to take it on his back and just not take no for an answer after a back-to-back, three-in-four, is what leaders do," Bruins goaltender Jeremy Swayman said. "He's gonna show up in the right times. He's been doing that his whole career."
Boston coach Jim Montgomery described Saturday as one of the Bruins' best overall efforts in a couple of weeks. Sunday was a stick-to-it kind of game against a team that has played well recently.
Through it all, whether he was scoring goals or not, Marchand and his fellow team leaders have provided Boston with a boost.
"I think our leadership (has been key) and being able to get back to practice, to create the habits and pace that we want to play with," Montgomery said of what has allowed the Bruins to get back on track. "But mostly, I think it's the leadership."
Marchand is expected to return after missing Wednesday's practice to attend services for his grandmother, who passed away last Friday.
Montgomery knows his team has room for growth, even with a plus-21 goal differential that was the NHL's third best as of Wednesday.
"We're doing a better job. We're not where we need to be yet," Montgomery said. "The league only continues to get harder and better every 20 games."
The Sabres' 5-3 loss to Detroit on Tuesday was their fourth straight setback and fifth in six games.
Though his team has dropped within two points of the Atlantic Division cellar, Buffalo coach Don Granato remains optimistic.
"I have confidence that we can resolve this, and I have confidence in saying that this is what teams deal with, and you've got to learn to deal with it better to get out of it faster and become more experienced because of it," Granato said. "I know we're going to get to the other side of this and as painful as it is, I think we're going to be better because of it."
The return of Sabres star forward Tage Thompson is certainly reason for optimism. Thompson missed nine games due to an upper-body injury sustained while blocking a shot in a Nov. 14 loss to the Bruins.
Thompson played 18:41 on Tuesday and registered an assist. Meanwhile, fellow forwards Alex Tuch and Jordan Greenway were placed on injured reserve.
"I think, obviously, watching the consistency of winning and losing battles is too big right now," Thompson said. "It's an important thing to go through as a group and come out the other side. It's been a good challenge for us. And it's kind of up to us how we respond from it."
With the Sabres' Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (illness) set to miss a second straight game, Devon Levi -- who played collegiately at Northeastern in Boston -- could start in net.
Buffalo defenseman Rasmus Dahlin (lower-body injury) will travel to Boston.
--Field Level Media
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