The Boston Bruins are determined to extend their playoff run this season after being eliminated in the second round of the postseason last season.
The Buffalo Sabres, on the other hand, would just like to reach the postseason.
The Bruins will have a shorter-term goal Thursday when they are in Buffalo as the Sabres open their season. They will be trying to overcome the humiliation of a 7-0 drubbing from the Stanley Cup champion Capitals in the season-opener at Washington.
The Bruins were down 2-0 after 1:47 of the first period.
“We got ourselves behind the eight ball early, clearly weren’t ready to go,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. “It just carried on from there. …I expected a much better effort.”
Bruins starting goaltender Tuukka Rask was lifted nearly halfway into the second period and Jaroslav Halak, who was slated to start Thursday, replaced him. It has not been determined who will start in goal for the Bruins in Buffalo.
The Bruins had several young players last season and are hoping they take the next step this season.
“I think we need growth from our guys from (their) first year into the second year,” Cassidy said. “We need good health. Clearly every year there’s teams that get better and some regress, so we can’t worry too much about them. Take care of our own business.”
The Bruins needed seven games to eliminate the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round of the playoffs and were eliminated in five by the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Maple Leafs have added free agent John Tavares and are being rated among the early favorites to win the Stanley Cup.
The Sabres have eight newcomers among the 23 players on the roster for their season opener, including Remi Elie, who was claimed off waivers from the Dallas Stars Tuesday. Elie scored six goals and added eight assists in 72 games last season with the Stars.
Another new player is Conor Sheary, acquired in a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Sheary suffered an upper body injury on the first day of training camp and returned to practice Sunday. Jeff Skinner, acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes in August, also is scheduled to make his Sabres debut, along with No. 1 overall draft pick Rasmus Dahlin.
Eichel is entering his fourth season in the NHL and starting an eight-year, $80 million contract extension.
“It’s exciting not only for me and our players and our coaching staff but our city,” Sabres coach Phil Housley said. “I think he represents everything we want as far as our organization goes, and it was just a great intimate moment for him to accept the captaincy in front of the general manager and the owner and myself. There were some really good strong conversations about expectations and the way he’s got to lead, but we feel very confident about having Jack as our captain.”
The Sabres did not have a captain last season, instead relying on a leadership group of four players that included Eichel.
Sabres center Zemgus Girgensons, who has been with the team since 2013, believes the start of this season feels different than most.
“I think this team’s capable of playoffs, so that’s definitely something we’d love to see happen,” Girgensons told the Buffalo News. “I think everyone in here, just knowing how it’s been here for the last five years, it would be a huge accomplishment. The fans deserve it. The fans deserve us players to give an all-out effort every night, and we’ll try to do that.”
Girgensons, Eichel, Rasmus Ristolainen and Sam Reinhart have played a combined 1,152 games without making the playoffs.
Forwards Scott Wilson, Sean Malone and Johan Larsson, and defenseman Matt Hunwick have been placed on injured reserve by the Sabres. Wilson will be out for 8-10 weeks after having surgery on a fractured ankle.