The Boston Bruins will aim for their seventh consecutive win when they visit the Buffalo Sabres on Friday.
The surging Bruins (27-12-6, 60 points) hold fourth place in the eight-team East Division, but they are only three points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders, who are tiedfor second, and four points behind the first-place Washington Capitals.
Boston has two games in hand on each of the teams ahead of it and has opened an eight-point bulge on the fifth-place New York Rangers. The top four teams in each division make the Stanley Cup playoffs.
"Not a lot of poor stretches," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said of the winning streak. "I think that shows in our goals against. We don't have these lulls where we have pockets of poor puck management shift after shift."
During the streak, Boston has outscored its opponents 23-7.
Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak each had a goal and an assist to lead Boston on Thursday, and Jeremy Swayman made 29 saves. Marchand has 12 goals in 13 games in April.
The Bruins pulled away with three goals in the third period.
Boston defeated Buffalo 2-0 on Tuesday, and the teams are set to complete the three-game series on Friday. This season, the Bruins are 5-0-0 against the Sabres, allowing no more than two goals in any of those games. Boston has won 10 straight against Buffalo dating back to December 2018.
Tuukka Rask, who shut out the Sabres on Tuesday, will be in the net Friday. In three starts since returning from an upper-body injury that forced him to miss all but one period over the course of 18 games, he is 3-0-0 record while allowing four goals.
"He's been rock solid ... ready to go since he came out of this," Cassidy said. "You don't know when you miss that much time how long you'll need to get back. Clearly, he got back quickly or has gotten back quickly, and we're obviously thankful for that."
The Sabres (12-28-7, 31 points), who got their goal from Arttu Ruotsalainen on Thursday, have lost three of four.
After going 0-for-6 on the power play Tuesday, the Sabres tweaked their top unit Thursday but went 0-for-4 in the second period and 0-for-5 overall.
"Obviously, it's frustrating, for sure," Buffalo center Casey Mittelstadt said. "If we get a power-play goal there with all the penalties in the second, it's a different game, so, yeah, I think it's a better mix of we've got to do a better job of helping each other if we run into trouble."
Buffalo is 1-for-18 on power plays against Boston this season.
Goalie Dustin Tokarski (33 saves) made his sixth straight start on Thursday, but Buffalo's youth movement will get a new member on Friday when goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, 22, makes his NHL debut. The Sabres selected Luukkonen in the second round of the 2017 draft.
"I think it's better for UPL to see one more night," interim coach Don Granato said before the Thursday game. "It was going to be a split anyway, we felt. Give him another night from the bench. I think that's good. He'll be in there (Friday) is the plan."
Luukkonen would become the fifth rookie to debut for Buffalo this season, following Ruotsalainen, Dylan Cozens, Jacob Bryson and Mattias Samuelsson.
--Field Level Media