Game preview: MTL @ BUF
CANADIENS (13-9-2) vs. SABRES (5-19-1)
Against the Sabres, the Canadiens are looking to continue its three-game winning streak, a run of form which saw the team average four goals scored per game after only potting 18 in the 11 previous outings.
The Habs are in Buffalo to play the first of four games in six days against an underachieving Sabres team. While the Upstate New York franchise’s players have been performing better under new head coach Ted Nolan, they are still only 1-4 since Ron Rolston’s firing two weeks ago.
Last Saturday, the Canadiens raced to an early lead and hung on to beat the favored Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 3-2. Max Pacioretty scored twice, Tomas Plekanec scored once and Carey Price made 29 saves in the winning effort. Meanwhile, Buffalo had the first goal of the game against Detroit on Sunday, but were sunk by a Johan Franzen powerplay marker in the third, as they dropped their fourth consecutive game. Cody Hodgson, the team’s leading scorer, was the only Sabre to light the lamp, while Ryan Miller picked up his 14th loss of the season despite a valiant 31-save effort.
Carey Price will likely get his 20th start of the season. He is 10-9-7 against the Sabres all-time.
Rene Bourque is cleared for a return to action after missing the last three games with a lower-body injury. However, coach Michel Therrien announced that he will sit out against Buffalo.
Buffalo has both struggled to score and to keep the puck out of its own net this season. The team is ranked 30th league-wide in Goals for (41) and 27th in Goals against (79). Only one of its players currently has a positive plus/minus rating; Brayden McNabb is a +1 in two games played.
Buffalo’s leading scorer is Cody Hodgson, who has 17 points in 25 games, while newcomer Matt Moulson has nine in 12 games as a Sabre. In nets, Ryan Miller has been good even if he is not getting much help from the skaters in front of him. Despite his 3.11 Goals against average and 4-14 record, he’s managed to stop close to 92% of shots faced and is still a prime candidate to backstop Team USA at the next Olympics.
There are no significant injury news for the Sabres – Cody McCormick is the only player out; he’s on injury reserve with an upper body injury.
Wednesday’s game will be the first of four meetings between the Habs and the Sabres this year. Montreal is only 3-6 against Buffalo since 2012, but won convincingly in the last visit to the First Niagara Center. On April 11th 2013, the Canadiens won 5-1 in Buffalo thanks to two points from Max Pacioretty and Andrei Markov.
Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. EST.