Season series -- This is the second of six regular-season meetings between the Habs and Sabres. Montreal took the season-opening game 2-1 in overtime at HSBC Arena on Oct. 3 with currently-injured right wing Brian Gionta tallying the game winner. The clubs split last season’s series at 2-2-2.
Big story -- While the Habs are mired in a three-game losing streak, it’s actually what has happened off the ice recently that has the hockey world all abuzz. Tonight’s contest marks the first game for the Canadiens under their new ownership group. Brothers Geoff, Andrew and Justin Molson led a group that finalized the purchase of the Montreal Canadiens Hockey Club, as well as Bell Centre and Gillett Entertainment Group on Tuesday.
Canadiens -- Montreal also made personnel moves on the ice by dealing center Kyle Chipchura to Anaheim on Wednesday in exchange for a fourth-round Draft pick in 2011. While that transaction is a move towards the future; the current state of the club isn’t looking very bright.
The Habs have been battling injuries all season long, which have resulted in a current 12th place spot in the 15-team Eastern Conference with 26 points. Montreal will look to bounce back on Thursday after suffering a tough 3-0 defeat at the hands of the last-place Toronto Maple Leafs at the Bell Centre on Tuesday.
But despite the Canadiens’ struggles, the new ownership group is eager to get the NHL’s most storied franchise back on the right track.
“As owners, we will be right there with management and the team, building and battling toward our next Stanley Cup,” stated Geoff Molson at Tuesday’s press conference.
Sabres -- The amazing play by All-Star goalie Ryan Miller has most folks believing that Buffalo is succeeding on the strength of riding the coattails of such a red-hot goaltender but the truth is that the Sabres have fared so well as a result of a total team effort.
Miller has been getting help from a strong group of defensemen led by the solid pairing of Henrik Tallinder and rookie Tyler Myers. Additionally, coach Lindy Ruff has been doing a great job juggling lines to better pair his offensive personnel. He swapped Jochen Hecht and Thomas Vanek during Saturday’s 5-1 win against Carolina and the result was a goal each for those players. The Sabres will have to continue to remain sharp as they embark on the first of 15 games in 27 days on Thursday.
Who’s hot --Tomas Plekanec has totaled four points over his last five games for the Canadiens. ... Miller has won three straight for Buffalo, including a shutout over Toronto on Monday. The Sabres’ goalie also leads the NHL with a .937 save percentage, 1.84 goals against average and three shutouts this season.
Injury report -- Defensemen Andrei Markov (ankle) and Hal Gill (foot) and forwards Matt D'Agostini (concussion), Brian Gionta (foot) and Benoit Pouliot (wrist) remain on injured reserve for Montreal. For the Sabres, captain Craig Rivet (lower body) and center Paul Gaustad (undisclosed) are still out after both getting injured against Philadelphia last Friday.
Stat pack -- The Habs are 24th in the League on the power play at 17.1 percent. The Sabres rank second in the NHL in penalty killing at 85.2 percent.
Puck drop -- Thursday marks a new chapter in the Canadiens’ illustrious history and they will do it against a Sabres team that they have recently matched up very well against. No matter how hot or cold either team is playing, Montreal and Buffalo always seem to bring out the best in each other. Fans should expect the same hard-fought, physical affair that these Northeast Division rivals consistently bring to the table.