Montreal (38-32-8) vs. (43-24-10) – April 3rd 2010
Less than a day after defeating the Flyers and leapfrogging into sixth place, the Canadiens face off against Buffalo in another crucial contest at the Bell Centre. Jaroslav Halak, who was superlative in Philadelphia, will get the start against the Sabres. On Friday night, the Slovak made 35 saves en route to his fourth shutout of the season. With that performance, he bolstered his record to 25-12-3 and now boasts an excellent .925 save percentage. As a matter of fact, the latter statistic ranks fourth best in the NHL.
Hopefully, the presence of Halak will tip the scales for the Habs, as the Sabres have otherwise had their number this season. The Sabres are a fast and offensively balanced team who always seem to give fits to Montreal defenders and in five games thus far, the Canadiens have only won once. Tim Connolly leads the team in scoring with 65 points, but he is out with a foot injury. Derek Roy, who has 7 points in his past 4 contests, is second with 63 points. Along with Connolly, forwards Patrick Kaleta and Thomas Vanek are out. However, even with these absences, the Buffalo offense is still quite threatening. Currently, eleven players on the squad have ten goals or more and the team is tenth in goal scoring, averaging 2.84 goals per game. As for goaltending, it should come as no surprise that probable Vezina candidate Ryan Miller will get the nod tonight, especially since the Sabres have the opportunity to clinch their division tonight if Ottawa loses. Thus far, the American Olympian owns a 39-17-8 record to go along with his sparkling .928 save percentage, which is good for second in the league.
As for Les Glorieux, they would benefit from lessened reliance on their goalkeepers. And, that starts with more even contribution from the offense. The Habs have scored more than two goals only once in the past seven games and the powerplay, as it has been well documented, has been underwhelming of late. Meanwhile, Mike Cammalleri has been ice cold since his return and has only registered two assists. In short, additional offensive contributions would be most welcomed against one of the best teams in the East. On the injury front, Montreal forward Sergei Kostitsyn is out while defenseman Jaroslav Spacek’s presence is uncertain as he is still afflicted with a virus. It is also worth reminding that Glen Metropolit is out at least six weeks with a separated shoulder.
Puck drops at 7:00 pm and the game will air on RDS, CBC, NHL Network US and MSG.