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The Canadiens will look to regain their winning ways this afternoon, as they host the Buffalo Sabres. Montreal was last in action on Wednesday night, and lost emphatically to the Ottawa Senators, 5-1. The Sabres, meanwhile, stomped Boston 7-4 on Thursday, as Thomas Vanek had his second 5-point game this season. This is the first of 5 games between the divisional rivals; the Canadiens went a dismal 1-3-2 against the Sabres last season.
Despite last game's disappointing effort, Michel Therrien seems content with his forward lines, and no changes have been made. Max Pacioretty (aka Wolverine) is seemingly healed from his appendectomy, and participated fully in Friday's practice; however, it is unlikely that he suits up this weekend. P.K. Subban was paired with Francis Bouillon at practice, and though he seems likely to play on Saturday, Therrien hasn't given any indication if he will. Peter Budaj can't be blamed for Wednesday's loss, but Carey Price will be in front of the cage this afternoon. Price is a career 9-8-6 against the Sabres, with a 2.04 GAA and .934 SV%.
With Andrei Markov at the helm, Montreal's powerplay has been potent this season, converting opportunities 27.3% of the time. But the loss of Hal Gill and Subban's absence has made Montreal's penalty-killing look disorganized, and they have only killed off 78.1% shorthanded situations. Buffalo is mid-pack in both categories, going 24% on the powerplay and 82.8% on the penalty-kill.
Montreal remains without the services of Max Pacioretty (appendix) and Petteri Nokelainen (back). Yannick Weber and Tomas Kaberle are expected to be the healthy scratches for the Canadiens, while Mike Blunden was demoted to the Hamilton Bulldogs. The Sabres are missing Cody McCormick (finger), Patrick Kaleta (neck) and Ville Leino (hip).
|Buffalo (3-3-1)||Montreal (4-2-0)|
Vanek - Hodgson - Pominville
Ennis - Ott - Stafford
Hecht - Grigorenko - Foligno
Gerbe - Ellis - Scott
Ehroff - Sulzer
Eller - Desharnais - Cole
Bourque - Plekanec - Gionta
Prust - Galchenyuk - Gallagher
Moen - White - Armstrong
1 - Discipline - Something that has been preached since Day 1 of training camp still needs addressing, as the parade to the penalty box last swung momentum to Ottawa's favour last game. The officials seem content to call everything this shortened season, and the Canadiens really need to crack down on taking unnecessary penalties, especially if their PK continues to falter. Therrien preached playing "whistle-to-whistle" on Friday, and his Canadiens would stand to benefit from this advice.
2 - Top Line Must Get Going - Last year's top line has been invisible thus far, and Max Pacioretty's absence has only exacerbated this problem. But as it says in the Canadiens' locker room, there are "no excuses" and Desharnais, Cole and Eller must find a way to start scoring. Desharnais appears to be finally trending in the right direction; hopefully the points will soon follow.
3 - Crash the Net - Ryan Miller is a world-class goaltender and owns a 23-8-6 record against the Canadiens, with a 2.20 GAA and .926 SV%. If Montreal is to be successful, they will have to direct a lot of traffic, both shots and bodies, to the net and make Miller's life uncomfortable. With 3 lines that can (theoretically) score, this strategy can wear down Miller and tilt the game to Montreal's advantage.
Game time is 2pm EST and the match can be seen on CBC and RDS.