Preview: Sabres Vs Canadiens (Game #31)

Habs vs Sabres

Match-Up:

The Canadiens (20-5-5) are back home Saturday to host the Sabres (12-15-4) after losing to them in overtime earlier this week. The game is set to start at 7:00 and can be seen on RDS and CBC.

This is the fourth of five matches between the Habs and Sabres this season, and while Buffalo won two out of the three previous games, the Canadiens picked up points in each. Max Pacioretty and Colby Armstrong scored third period goals to force overtime when these teams met last Tuesday, but Steve Ott scored his second goal of the night in the extra frame to seal the win for the Sabres.

What to Watch:

PK Subban notched a pair of goals in Thursday’s 5-2 win over the Islanders bringing him up to 9 goals and 22 points in 24 games this season. Subban leads all defensemen in goals and is third in points among rearguards. Brendan Gallagher also picked up his ninth goal on Thursday, pushing him to second in the league in goals scored by rookies. The 20-year-old now has points in 5 of his last 6 games.

Thomas Vanek missed Buffalo’s last game against the Leafs Thursday night but he’ll be back in the lineup Saturday. Vanek still leads the Sabres with 31 points in 27 games but after notching 3 assists on Thursday, Cody Hodgson is right behind him with 12 goals and 27 points on the season.

What’s at Stake:

The Canadiens hold a two-point lead over the Bruins although the B’s still have a game in hand making a win against the lowly Sabres crucial. The Habs are also chasing the Penguins, winners of 11 straight, for top spot in the East, Montreal is three points back of Pittsburgh with a pair of games in hand to help them close the gap.

Although they’ve struggled to find consistency this season, the Sabres aren’t out of the playoff race just yet, however, with 28 points in 31 games, there’s not much room for error if they do hope to slip into the postseason.

Who’s Out:

Ryan White is the newest resident of the Habs’ clinic, he’ll miss Saturday’s game with a lower body injury. Brandon Prust (shoulder) and Rene Bourque (concussion) are in the final stages of their recoveries, both are practicing with the team but it looks like neither will be in the lineup against Buffalo. Raphael Diaz (concussion) is also missing, he hasn’t yet resumed skating with the team.

For the Sabres, defenseman Alexander Sulzer (knee) is out, he’s likely to miss the rest of the season.

What Else:

Just how much better is this year’s version of the Habs compared to last year? At this point in the season, Montreal has 20 wins in 30 games. With 18 games remaining that puts the Canadiens on pace for another dozen wins, which would give them 32 for the year. That would be one more win than the Habs only managed with a full 82 game schedule last year. In a full 82 game season, Montreal would be pacing themselves towards a 54 win year; last season the Rangers and Canucks led the league with 51 wins each.

The Question Mark:

Have your say, respond to the Montreal Hockey Talk pregame question in the comments below or by using the #MTLHockey hashtag on Twitter.

Today’s question: Who do you think deserves the most credit for Montreal’s success this year?

Be sure to tune into the Montreal Hockey Talk Pregame Show an hour before the puck drop and the Post Game Show 5 minutes after the final siren. Join the live conversation by using the #MTLHockey hashtag on Twitter.

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About Rob Elbaz

Rob Elbaz has written 313 post in this blog.

Montreal Hockey Talk Pregame Show Panelist and all around good guy.

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