TV: RDS (HD), TSN-HABS (HD), MSG-Buffalo
LAST 10: Montreal 5-4-1; Buffalo 5-4-1
Season Series: This is the fourth of six series meetings between these Northeast Division rivals. Buffalo has won the first three - and six straight overall - including a 3-1 win in the Bell Centre on Jan. 31. It's the first visit by the Canadiens to Buffalo this season.
Big Story: Two teams jostling for position in the Eastern Conference will face off -- and both are running out of time. The Sabres have lost three straight while the Canadiens are on a two-game slide, and neither is close to eighth place in the East.
Canadiens : Inconsistency can be more frustrating for fans than flat-out failure - just ask the Bell Centre faithful. Their Canadiens have struggled to string positive results together all season, a phenomenon that has arisen again over the past couple of weeks. Montreal won four in a row from Feb. 5-11 - including dominating shutouts of Toronto and Winnipeg - but followed that with losses this week to Carolina and Boston, also at home. Against the Bruins, the Canadiens erased a two-goal Boston lead in the third period, only to lose in a shootout.
"It's unfortunate that because of that Carolina game, now we've lost two in a row and we're not where we could be," said Mathieu Darche, referring to Montreal's position eight points behind eighth-place Toronto. "I think the last two weeks we've played the way we should have all year, and if we would have done that I don't think we'd be in this situation."
Sabres: Buffalo also showed some signs of life in early February, scoring three straight wins, among them a 6-0 blowout of the Boston Bruins. But little has gone right since, with losses to Tampa Bay and New Jersey in First Niagara Center. But Thursday's 7-2 loss in Philadelphia may have pushed the Sabres over the edge -- Buffalo took an early 2-0 lead, but the Flyers scored seven straight goals to push the Sabres 10 points outside the final playoff berth.
"In the first I think we had control," captain Jason Pominville said. "We were doing some good things. We were generating chances. … The momentum just changed sides and they took over from that point on. That's when we have to lock in and be smart and be better and we can't play the way we did."
Who's Hot: Erik Cole has goals in three straight games and keyed Montreal's third-period comeback Wednesday with an assist and game-tying goal. … Pominville has goals in three straight games and points in six.
Injury Report: Montreal winger Travis Moen is doubtful with an upper-body injury. Yannick Weber (lower body), Mike Blunden (knee surgery), Petteri Nokelainen (leg) and Brian Gionta (right biceps surgery) are all on injured reserve. … Buffalo center Cody McCormick is doubtful for Friday's game with an upper-body injury. Jochen Hecht (concussion), TJ Brennan (flu-like symptoms) and Corey Tropp (upper body) are all on IR.
Stat Pack: Despite their recent ups and downs, the Canadiens have scored 15 goals over their past four games. That's a concern for a Buffalo team that has conceded 13 in three. … Both of Buffalo's goalies are struggling. Ryan Miller allowed four goals on 17 shots Thursday, and he is 34thh among goalies in goals-against average and save percentage. Jhonas Enroth got the start and was pulled after conceding three on 18 shots, and his 2.68 goals-against average is 28th League-wide.
Puck Drop: Though the three straight losses hurt, Buffalo's Thomas Vanek insists that his team won't be conceding the playoff race just yet.
"They sting. All three of them hurt, that's for sure. It's not getting any easier from here, but as hard and disappointing as this one is, you just have to think of what you can do better and show up tomorrow to win again."