Game Preview: Montreal Canadiens @ Buffalo Sabres

Revenge is on the agenda tonight as the Buffalo Sabres look to win their fourth straight match and avenge a season opening overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens. Despite registering more than double the amount of shots as the Habs, 35-17, Montreal earned stole two points in the first meeting. Since then, it's been role reversals with the Sabres sitting one point out of the Division lead with three games in hand on the Boston Bruins and the Canadiens only five points ahead of the bottomed Toronto Maple Leafs.

Montreal has alternated wins and losses for the most part this season failing to reach any consistency. Defeat today spells four in a row in that category. In Buffalo's case, it's a fourth straight successful outing they seek in a stretch where they have connected superb offense (12 goals) with stellar goaltending/defense (three goals allowed). It'll be Ryan Miller and Jaroslav Halak backstopping their respective squads.

Five thoughts on each team below.

  • You name it, Ryan Miller's on top or close by. In reference to save percentage, goals against average and shutouts, the 29-year-old is setting the bar leading all netminders. His 15 wins are bested by Evgeni Nabokov and and Marc-Andre Fleury. Matt Stajan and Ron Wilson applauded his efforts in Monday's 3-0 result in Toronto.
  • As I said, Halak is in and he's actually won both career starts when facing Buffalo but was beaten six times in the process. Montreal's hopes rely heavily on him for the sake of a decent result because of injuries and the fact that the Sabres have their A-game going.
  • Henrik Tallinder notched his first goal in over a year three days ago creating a 2-0 lead and taking the life out of Toronto. Ready for another frightening fact? The last time the Swede scored twice in as many contests was May of 2006 during the playoffs. Go get em Henrik.
  • Mike Cammalleri and Tomas Plekanec have been the noticeable offensive producers. Besides them, nobody has 14 points although Brian Gionta likely would were he not hurt. They'll have to make their chances count because Buffalo usually out-shoots Montreal and Miller is seeing everything.
  • Jason Pominville, Derek Roy and Jochen Hecht are riding two-game point streaks. While they aren't large streaks by any means, it seems like a new person is stepping up daily to shoulder the load. Who will it be tonight?
  • Former Sabre blue-liner Jaroslav Spacek has struggled with nine points on the year. I guess someone forgot to tell Bob Gainey that last season's 45 points came in a contract year.
  • Energetic forward Tim Kennedy is still looking for that first goal at HSBC Arena. The local 23-year-old beat Martin Brodeur for goal No.1 and the other came in Toronto. With each coming against a historic goaltender or franchise, it would be worthy of breaking that funk through Montreal.
  • Good news for Andrei Markov who is expected to now return at some point in January rather than February. While it won't affect the outcome of this match, the sooner the Canadiens can activate their most valuable performer, the better.
  • Craig Rivet may return to the line-up tonight after missing two games confirming that he's healed up. The final decision will be on Lindy Ruff whether to allow him right in or wait given how well the defense has played recently.
  • I still can't believe Montreal pursued Scott Gomez and his ridiculous contract. This guy has 11 points to reward Gainey for $8 million dollars worth of salary. Chalk another stupid choice up to the general manager.

Four of the last seven battles have gone to overtime so expect a tight match-up if history is any indication. By the way, Toronto shutout Montreal 3-0 the day after Buffalo did the same to the Maple Leafs. Is it our turn to be closed down completely or am I just superstitious?

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