Coach Mike Sullivan's philosophy with regard to goaltending has been to go with the hot hand. Of course, there have been many times this season where he has had to alter it to go with the healthy hand. Because of injuries to Hannu Toivonen and Andrew Raycroft, Tim Thomas was forced into a marathon schedule of 15 straight starts leading to the Olympic break.
Now that the club is in the stretch run, Sullivan has two healthy netminders. After Raycroft's strong showing in Thursday's 3-2 win over the Atlanta Thrashers (his first start since Jan. 12), Sullivan went back to him last night against Buffalo at the TD Banknorth Garden.
He received a lot of offensive support early as the Bruins went up, 2-0, midway through the opening period, but it was all downhill from there for Raycroft, who absorbed the 3-2 loss.
Raycroft stopped 22 shots, but his teammates, despite outshooting Buffalo, 42-25, couldn't find the back of the net to tie it in the third.
''We just didn't get the goals that we needed," he said. ''Nowadays, if you only score two you're not going to win most nights."
On all three Buffalo goals, the Sabres exploited the open side of the goal.
''That's kind of their game," said Raycroft. ''They have some really skilled players up front that are very underrated and they made some nice plays out there. It's tough when you play at least as well as [we did] and [don't] get a win. There is a lot of hockey left and we have to keep sticking to it."
Because of the team's rash of injuries, including two to Murray himself, Sullivan has experimented with different line combinations in an attempt to find a spark.
Last night against the Sabres, Murray was again on a line with left wing Sergei Samsonov and center Wayne Primeau.
The combination struck again, with Murray getting his 19th goal in the first period against Buffalo, with Samsonov getting the assist. The goal helped Murray extend his point streak to seven games, with four goals and four assists in that span.
''With his size and his reach he closes on people and he has deceptive speed," said Sullivan. ''I think he's really working at all aspects of his game. He's being the first guy on the forecheck, he's creating turnovers, and not only is he getting scoring chances himself but he's creating chances for his linemates.
''That's something we've been trying to emphasize to him, to be more involved, don't look to just be the finisher. Obviously, he had a chemistry with Joe and Joe found ways to get him the puck. Now the nature of our team is a little bit different and the demands for him as an individual are different and I think he's adapted pretty well."