Three day’s ago the Canadiens lost consecutive games for the first time this season, leaving Buffalo as the only NHL team to yet suffer that fate. Tonight the Canadiens will have an opportunity to send the Sabres to consecutive losses, this of course will be no simple task as the Sabres remain tops in the Eastern Conference. Should the Canadiens accomplish tonight’s take they would draw just six points behind the Conference leading Sabres.
Tonight’s game will be the fourth time the Sabres and Canadiens have met this season. Buffalo won the first in a shootout and the second by a 4-1 score. The Canadiens won the third meeting when Sheldon Souray scored with just a single second remaining in overtime. Ryan Miller has still yet to suffer a regulation loss to the Canadiens in his career.
Thankfully for the Canadiens their second overall ranked penalty kill has thwarted the Sabres this year as the Canadiens have killed off seventeen consecutive Sabre power play chances. Shutting down the Sabres power play appears to be the most effective way to victory, in their seven loses the Sabres have scored three power play goals while in their twenty-two wins they have scored twenty-six times while enjoying the man advantage.
Canadiens number one defenseman Andrei Markov who missed two games earlier in the week against the Devils and Islanders due to the flu is expected to be back in the Canadiens line-up, most liking punching Janne Niinimaa’s ticket back to the press box. The Sabres are hoping that Teppo Numminen and Chris Drury are available tonight. Numminen injured his foot against Florida on Thursday while blocking a shot and Drury is battling a flu bug of his own.
The Canadiens second line has been struggling, that everyone is aware of. Why?… Well that is the 8 million dollar question. Sergei Samsonov and Alex Kovalev have played the majority of the year together and still appear to lack the chemistry that all believed to be a given. Samsonov has not scored in eighteen games, and Kovalev and Samsonov have connected just once for a goal in the past eleven contests. During the third period against the Islanders, Kovalev was bumped to the 1st line with Koivu and Ryder, while Latendresse was moved down next to Plekanec and Samsonov. Coach Guy Carbonneau said he enjoyed what he saw but will chose to revert to the old lines to begin tonight’s game.
1. Saku Koivu produced just five assists in his last nine meetings with Buffalo, but this season he has been a Sabre killer scoring three times and adding a pair of assists.
2. Left wingers Thomas Vanek, and Alexander Perezhogin are the Eastern Conference +/- leaders posting a +16 and +14 respectively.
3. The Sabres have eighteen players in the positive column of the (+/-) statistic, while the Canadiens have just seven. Furthermore the Canadiens have fourteen players on the negative side compared the Sabres who have just two.