The Montreal Canadiens and Buffalo Sabres face each other for the third time
tonight, having alternated victories earlier this season in Buffalo. Montreal won
the first game in overtime, 2-1, but Buffalo trounced the Habs the last time
they played, 6-2. The Canadiens are mired in a 2-game losing skid,
as they dropped another one-goal game to Atlanta in overtime on Saturday.
Conversely, the Sabres are on a modest 3-game winning streak, having beat the
New York Rangers 3-2 on the weekend. The Sabres are one of the hottest
teams in the league right now, going 7-3-0 in their last 10 games while the Canadiens
are 4-4-2 over the same span.
With four games on the schedule this week, fans
can expect Carey Price (9-11-3, 2.76 GAA, .913 SV%) and Jaroslav Halak (6-4-0,
2.80 GAA, .907 SV%) to share starts in goal. Halak hasn’t played since
December 8th, when he made 45 saves to beat the Ottawa Senators, but reportedly
will start in net tonight. Vezina Trophy-candidate Ryan Miller (18-6-2,
1.83 GAA, .939 SV%) will likely start for the Sabres, and leads all goaltenders
in most major categories (GAA, SV% and shutouts). Miller is 14-5-5 against
Montreal in his career, but is 1-3-1 in his last 5 starts in Montreal.
Halak is 2-1-0 all-time versus the Sabres, but was shelled in his last game
against the Sabres, allowing 6 goals on 37 shots.
Tomas Plekanec leads the Habs in scoring
through the first 33 games with 32 points (6G, 26A), just slightly ahead of
linemate, Mike Cammalleri (17G,
11A). Andrei Kostitsyn completes the first trio, and has been hot of late,
tallying 4 goals and 2 assists in the past 5 games. The Sabres score by
committee and have Derek Roy (7G, 17A), Tim Connolly (6G, 16A), Jason Pominville
(7G, 13A) and Thomas Vanek (9G, 11A) contending for the team lead in points.
Neither team is renowned for their scoring prowess, but Buffalo (2.63 goals per
game, 20th) ranks higher than Montreal (2.46, 26th). The Sabres are quite
capable at limiting goals and rank 3rd in the league (2.17 GAA) which is
significantly better than the Canadiens (2.81 GAA, 18th). This deficiency
is further exacerbated by the fact that Montreal allows an average of 31.6 shots
against per game, while only mustering up 27 shots on average (29th in the NHL).
Montreal and Buffalo both feature mid-pack
powerplay units, with Montreal (19.4%, 15th) bearing a slight edge over Buffalo
(18.2%, 19th). Montreal’s powerplay has been effective of late, and have
converted 5 of their last 12 opportunities. The Sabres are 2 for 19 in
their last 5 games and have only connected on 1 out of 9 chances with the man
advantage against Montreal this season. Montreal’s streak of successful
penalty-kills came to an end at 33, but the Habs are still ranked 9th in the NHL
with a 83.4% penalty-kill rate. Buffalo is ranked 5th with a 84.8%
Andrei Markov (ankle) and Brian Gionta (foot) are out with injuries while
Paul Mara (upper body) and Marc-André Bergeron (facial laceration) are questionable for tonight. Benoit Pouliot (wrist)
is presently undergoing a conditioning stint with Montreal’s AHL affiliate, but
has yet to play a game. Buffalo will likely be missing Paul Gaustad
(knee), Chris Butler (ankle), and Nathan Gerbe (groin). Both Markov and Gionta are slated to meet with team doctors this
week to update their statuses, and it is hoped that Markov will be cleared for
contact drills and return soon. Similarly, it is hoped that Gionta will be
medically cleared to resume skating.
The puck drops at 7:30 and can be seen on RDS
This preview was written by Matt