CANADIENS (36-30-7) at SABRES (39-22-10)
Last 10 -- Montreal 7-2-1; Buffalo 6-3-1
Season series -- It's the fifth of six meetings between the Northeast Division rivals. The Sabres are 3-0-1 against the Canadiens this season. The Canadiens won 2-1 in overtime in Buffalo on opening night, Oct. 3, when Brian Gionta buried Scott Gomez's rebound at 2:42 of overtime. The Sabres won 6-2 in Buffalo on Dec. 3 when six players scored, and 4-3 in Montreal on Dec. 14 on now-departed Clarke MacArthur's power-play goal in the third period.
Big story -- The Sabres are trying to hang on to the Northeast Division lead and third seed in the East, although they are only two points behind the Atlantic Division-leading New Jersey Devils for the No. 2 seed. Montreal is seventh in the East with 79 points, and a victory will move the Canadiens past the idle Philadelphia Flyers into sixth.
Canadiens -- Left wing Mike Cammalleri, who has missed the past 17 games, and defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron, who has missed 15 games, have been cleared to play Wednesday night. Travis Moen, who was cut in the forehead by a skate Monday night, will not play. The return of Cammalleri and Bergeron should greatly strengthen the Canadiens' power play, the second-best in the NHL. Bergeron is third on the Canadiens with six power-play goals and Cammalleri has four. That's nearly 20 percent of the team total of 53.
Sabres -- Buffalo weathered its five-game road trip well, going 3-1-1 for seven of a possible 10 points. They're fourth-best in the East over their past 10 games and their three-game winning streak has helped them to a seven-point Northeast lead over Ottawa, which has gone 3-7-1. Thomas Vanek, a right-hand shot, has been playing left wing for most of his career but was moved to right wing last week on a line with center Derek Roy and Tim Kennedy and had a goal, two assists and was plus-2.
Who's hot -- Roy has five points in three games. Kennedy has three points in four games. Tim Connolly has six points in five games. Toni Lydman has four points in four games. Jochen Hecht has 12 points in 13 games. Montreal's Gomez has 11 points in nine games. Gionta has eight points in nine games. Goalie Jaroslav Halak has played the last eight games and is 6-1-1.
Injury report -- Buffalo's Raffi Torres has missed two games with an upper-body injury. Cammalleri and Bergeron should be back, but the absence of Moen will take away a physical element on the smallish Habs.
Stat pack -- Buffalo has scored five power-play goals in its past six games after being shut out for seven in a row. The Sabres are seventh-best in 5-on-5 play, scoring 1.08 goals to every goal the opposition scores. Montreal is 24th at 0.88-to-1. The Canadiens rank second on the power play with 22.8 percent efficiency. Buffalo is 23rd at 16.9. But the Canadiens have only three power-play goals in 25 attempts over their past five games, a 12.5 percent rate. Buffalo is the second-best penalty-killing team with 86 percent efficiency.
Puck drop -- The Sabres are home after thriving on their NCAA basketball-mandated road trip. They're closing in on a division title and still have a good chance at the second seed. The Canadiens are in a dogfight for one of the bottom three playoff positions, but have dropped their last two games and can't afford to see another two points sail away.
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Habs notebook - March 23, 2010