Sabres see road trip end with visit to Canadiens
SABRES (20-24-5) at CANADIENS (19-21-9)
TV: RDS (HD), MSG-B, TSN-HABS (HD)
Buffalo 2-7-1; Montreal 5-3-2
This is the third of six games between these Northeast Division rivals, who also square off in Montreal for the third time this season. Buffalo has won the previous four matchups at the Bell Centre and the last five meetings overall. On Oct. 18, Ryan Miller
made 40 saves in the Sabres' 3-1 victory, as Thomas Vanek
's goal with 2.8 seconds remaining in the second period proved to be the game-winner. On Nov. 14, Buffalo overcame a 2-0 deficit in the third period and went on to claim a 3-2 shootout decision. Jhonas Enroth
stopped 25 shots plus two more in the tiebreaker, which featured goals by Vanek and Brad Boyes
The bottom two teams in the Northeast come out of the All-Star break hoping to build some momentum as they each sit outside the top eight in the Eastern Conference. The Canadiens are aiming for their first three-game winning streak since they took four in a row from Oct. 26-Nov. 4, whereas the Sabres are trying to win back-to-back games for the first time since Nov. 8-11 after they ended a 12-game road losing streak and a five-game skid overall with a win last Tuesday at New Jersey.
With the Sabres struggling mightily on offense -- they have managed just 15 goals in their last 10 games (2-7-1) -- it took an outstanding performance from Ryan Miller
to finally post a win as the visitors last week against the Devils. Miller entered the game a lackluster 3-9-0 in his last 12 decisions while sporting a 5.00 goals-against average and an .836 save percentage in his last three starts. But he was magnificent in the 2-1 shootout victory, stopping 27 shots through 65 minutes and denying three of New Jersey's four attempts in the tiebreaker. Miller rescued Buffalo from defeat on three different occasions in overtime -- most notably when he made a terrific glove save on Ilya Kovalchuk 25 seconds into the extra session.
"It's been a while since I've been able to grind one out," Miller told NHL.com. "I just feel like everything that could have gone wrong this year, has been going wrong. That was a game where a lot of things went right … my job is to clean up the mistakes, so it was nice to be there when they had their chances."
After Tuesday's contest -- which concludes a stretch of seven straight road games -- the Sabres will play nine of their next 11 on home ice.
Hosting the NHL's top team in front of a national TV audience in the lone game last Wednesday night before the All-Star break, the Canadiens had the platform to make a statement. And they took full advantage, turning some heads with a 7-2 drubbing of Detroit, which was without captain Nicklas Lidstrom because of the flu. The Habs scored four goals on their first 11 shots on Jimmy Howard, chasing the All-Star netminder after one period. Rookie defenseman Alexei Emelin scored his first NHL goal, David Desharnais added two more and Rene Bourque, Tomas Plekanec and Max Pacioretty also scored to give Montreal a 6-0 lead only 4:18 into the second period. Erik Cole put the icing on the cake with his team-leading 19th tally of the season late in the third, as the Canadiens notched points for the fifth time in their last six games (3-1-2) and ended the Red Wings' seven-game winning streak.
"It's definitely nice to go into the break on a high note and maybe dwell on it for a couple of days, because we haven't had a whole lot of good to dwell on this year," said All-Star goalie Carey Price, who made 26 saves for his 17th win. "So maybe we can sit on that for a little while, but when we come back we know we have to get back to work."
Who's Hot: Nathan Gerbe
notched the shootout winner and an assist in Buffalo's victory over the Devils. … Cole has points in four of his last five, with 2 goals and 7 assists in that span.
The injury-riddled Sabres got a bit healthier before the All-Star break. After missing 11 games with an upper-body injury, defenseman Christian Ehrhoff
returned to the lineup in the win over New Jersey, as did fellow blueliner Robyn Regehr
, who missed four games with a shoulder injury. However, several other players remain sidelined: forwards Paul Gaustad
(upper body), Jochen Hecht
(concussion), Tyler Ennis
(left ankle) and Colin Stuart
(knee), as well as defensemen Brayden McNabb
(head). … Montreal captain Brian Gionta is on injured reserve following right biceps surgery, while Petteri Nokelainen sat out the last game because of undisclosed upper-body injury. Forward Ryan White (sports hernia surgery) and defenseman Andrei Markov (knee surgery) have yet to play this season and remain on IR.
Miller needs one victory to equal Dominik Hasek's franchise record of 234 career wins. … The Sabres were outscored 51-18 during the 12-game road losing streak.
If recent history is any indicator, Tuesday's game will be tightly contested. None of the last eight games between these clubs has been decided by more than two goals, with five out of the eight featuring just a one-goal margin. In addition, three of their previous five meetings have gone past regulation -- two were decided in shootouts and one ended in overtime.