Wednesday night's meeting between the Boston Bruins and Buffalo Sabres will have more than just two points at stake. For the residents of Boston, it is one of the first chances to get things back to normal following the tragic events of Monday's Boston Marathon.
The Bruins take to the TD Bank Garden ice for the first time since multiple explosions at the historic race claimed the lives of three people and injured over 150 more.
Boston's game with rival Buffalo will be the first major sports event in the city since the tragedy. Major League Baseball's Boston Red Sox had already finished their home game on Monday before the explosions went off and are currently playing in Cleveland, while the Boston Celtics of the National Basketball League canceled their home game on Tuesday.
The Bruins were scheduled to host the Ottawa Senators on Monday night, but that game was postponed. The league announced on Tuesday it will be made up on April 28, one day after the regular season was supposed to end.
Boston, which has lost back-to-back games in regulation and still needs just one point to officially clinch a playoff spot, returned to practice on Tuesday.
"It was one of those days where you practice with heavy hearts," said Bruins head coach Claude Julien. "Obviously we have a job to do and we still have to do our job. I think our guys in there are proud of the city they represent, Boston, and as much as it was hard to really go out there and give your all, I think our guys did a good job."
The tough task for the Bruins now will be keeping their focus on hockey. They are still just one point behind the Montreal Canadiens for first place in the Northeast Division with seven games to play, one more than the Habs.
"You have to. You don't have a choice. Your thoughts and prayers are always going to be with those people, but as anybody else, whether its media or camera guys who had to cover what happened (Monday), no doubt it had to be hard on those people and the people that helped. But at one point, you have to do what you have to do and this is where we're at right now," said Julien.
"When we play our next game, we have to go out there and do our job. If anything, you want to show people that you represent the city the right way and with pride and also a lot of caring behind it."
That begins tonight, when the Bruins have a chance to give their city something to cheer about amidst the questions and grieving stemming from Monday's events.
"We all know it was a very sad day and still you can sense around the city it's still very emotional and sad day for everybody. We just have to support each other and obviously send our support to friends, family and everybody affected," said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara.
"I think we all can play for each other and in this tough time make the people cheer. (With) the way we play we can show the support."
Boston, which is set to play its next three games at home, is also likely to have Patrice Bergeron back in the lineup tonight. His return from the fourth concussion of his career seemed possible ahead of Monday's game and he is tied for second on the club with 31 points despite missing the past six games.
Leading scorer Brad Marchand, meanwhile, is also inching closer to returning from his concussion, but is likely to miss a third game in a row on Wednesday.
Much like the rest of the country, the Sabres also felt the impact of Monday's bombings. Forward Nathan Gerbe attended Boston College and talked about the tragedy on Tuesday.
"You know exactly where (the Boston Marathon) is. I've walked past there I couldn't even tell you how many times," said Gerbe. "For yourself, you thank God for keeping you safe, but something like this happening is embarrassing for our world to affect innocent people and obviously innocent children also got hurt. It's sad."
Like the Bruins, the Sabres also have to do there part in helping the city of Boston move on.
"Sporting events are events where there's a lot of people in one place. That's been the case for a long time. Certainly it's something to think about, but we have to go on and conduct business as usual," Buffalo interim coach Ron Rolston said.
The Sabres swept a pair of weekend games versus the Philadelphia Flyers and Tampa Bay Lightning to keep their playoff chances alive. One day after shutting out the Flyers 1-0, Jhonas Enroth made 32 saves to help his club defeat the Bolts 3-1.
Buffalo has won five of its past seven and is four points back of the New York Rangers and Winnipeg Jets for the eighth and final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. The Sabres and Jets both have five games left to play, one fewer than the Rangers.
Tyler Ennis snapped a 12-game goal drought in Sunday's win, while Kevin Porter also scored to extend his point streak to a career-high four straight games. Porter has seven points in his last seven games.
The Sabres are also expected to have 18-year Mikhail Grigorenko in the lineup on Wednesday. The 12th overall pick of the most recent draft had five points in 22 games earlier this season before getting assigned back to juniors. He was recalled to the Sabres on Tuesday.
The Sabres and Bruins have split the first four of their five scheduled regular-season meetings. Buffalo won the lone previous encounter this season in Boston, taking a 7-4 victory back on Jan. 31.