Twelve years ago Kirk Muller succeeded Guy Carbonneau as the Captain of the Montreal Canadiens, tonight they will embark on new NHL career paths. Carbonneau will coach his first regular season game and Kirk will assist him behind the bench in Buffalo New York. Bob Gainey will re claim his seat in the press box as the Canadiens General Manager after yet another hectic summer. The Canadiens will begin the season with more than just new coaches as Sergei Samsonov, Mike Johnson, Janne Niinimaa and Guillaume Latendresse will play in their first regular season games in a Canadiens jersey.
The addition of Samsonov and Johnson should bolster the Canadiens offensive output as they will join Michael Ryder as the only right handed shots in the regular line-up. Samsonov played 74 games last season between Boston and Edmonton and managed to put up 23 goals and 30 assists. Along with producing offensively Samsonov will be counted on to remain healthy this season, as he has had recent injury trouble; between 2002 and 2004 Samsonov missed 98 games due to injury, while in his first five seasons he was only sidelined 17 times due to injury. Johnson will not be required to produce as frequently but is in the same boat as Samsonov when it comes to injuries as he missed 71 games in the 2003-2004 season. Johnson played the entire last season with the Coyotes finishing 4th in team scoring with 15 goals and 38 assists.
The Sabres on the other hand have just one new addition to their line-up from last season as Jaroslav Spacek has taken a spot on the Sabres blue line. All other Sabres played at minimum one game with the team last year.
Tonight’s game should be all speed as Buffalo and the Montreal are unquestionably two of the fastest teams in the NHL. Last years Roger Crozier Trophy winner for the NHL’s best save percentage Cristobal Huet will start in goal for the Canadiens with Ryan Miller who came up just five wins shy of winning the Stanley Cup last June will be between the pipes for the Sabres. The Sabres won their first regular season game Wednesday night in Carolina on the back of a shootout goal by Daniel Briere and three consecutive stops by Miller.
Although the Canadiens picked up 8 points and a .500 record against the Sabres last season. Buffalo faired much better gathering 11 points in their 8 meetings. The Canadiens have lost five of their last six meetings against Buffalo and have had little success in northern New York State in recent memory.
The Canadiens were given a personal day Wednesday and practiced in Verdun before flying into Buffalo yesterday. Tonight’s game will be available on TSN, RDS and CJAD Radio 800.