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Sabres return home for division tilt against Montreal

Buffalo will be looking to bounce back from a bad ending to an otherwise excellent Western Canada road trip

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Buffalo Sabres v Seattle Kraken Photo by Christopher Mast/NHLI via Getty Images

Game 7

Buffalo Sabres (4-2-0) vs. Montreal Canadiens (3-4-0)

Puck Drop: 7:00 PM EST | KeyBank Center | Buffalo, NY

TV: MSG

Radio: WGR 550

SB Nation Habs Blog: Habs Eyes On The Prize

Know Your Opponent

Montreal Canadiens

Record: (3-4-0)

Last Game: 3-1 loss vs Wild

Division Ranking: 8th in Atlantic Division

PP: 5% (31st)

PK: 86% (8th)

What to Watch

1. Bouncing Back

Everything seemed off about the Sabres on Tuesday night in Seattle. Maybe it was just being on the tail end of a grueling road trip that was catching up to a pretty young team. Or possibly the growing pains of a team that seemed to be getting results beyond what their actual play deserved. Whatever it was, Buffalo seemed lethargic and lackadaisical where they had previously been energetic and enthusiastic in the previous five games.

The big test for Don Granato and his coaches is to quickly right the ship. Even the best teams will have off-nights. Where those rosters distance themselves from flash-in-the-pan teams though is how well they are able to overcome adversity and maintain a higher performance level. He said all the right things after that loss to the Kraken - “When you don’t feel good, can you play efficiently enough to keep that game tight all the way through and maybe sneak something through at the end? We have to get better at that because there’s a lot of nights where you’re not going to feel good.”

The Sabres will not have had much time to rest after coming back home, but will have the benefit of what should be a raucous KeyBank Center to get their pulses going again. As is usual when Buffalo play the Eastern Canadian teams, there should be plenty of cross-border representation in the stands tonight to make for a great hockey environment.

2. Not-So-Special Teams

The Sabres have issues on special teams, both 5-v-4 and 4-v-5. If Buffalo had not been potting goals 5-on-5 we’d be in much, much worse shape, but it’s definitely something that needs to be worked on.

When they have the man-advantage, Granato’s side are 32nd in the league in shot quality generated. For the amount of talent the Sabres have on the ice, this is hard to believe and unacceptable.

When the Sabres are on the penalty kill, they are 32nd in opposition shot quality generated. You can get away with that to some extent while you’re getting elite goaltending, but that kind of thing comes back to bite you very quickly.

Reports from the morning skate today seemed to indicate that Jack Quinn has replaced Casey Mittelstadt on the PP1 unit, with Mitts also switching to the left wall on the PP2 crew. We’ll see if that makes any difference tonight against an equally abysmal Habs special teams.

3. Young Leaders

A number of Sabres players have had very strong starts to the season, but what is most encouraging is that it’s the youngsters who are standing up to be counted. Rasmus Dahlin is showing that he has not only arrived as an offensive force in the league, he is also blazing the path for all to follow. His goal streak might have ended at five, but he grabbed an assist on Buffalo’s lone goal to make it a six-game points streak with nine in all games.

Dylan Cozens has been widely tipped to become a future Sabres captain, and is showing off a very mature and well-rounded side to his game this season. He scored the sole goal in the loss on Seattle, but is also consistently one of the top forwards in getting off high quality shots and creating chances. When the team hits an inevitable slump, you can confidently wager that the “Workhorse from Whitehorse” will be leading from the front.

Finally, a shout-out for Owen Power. Injuries to the d-corps mean he’s had a lot more responsibility thrust upon him, and so far the 19-year-old is showing that his shoulders are broad enough to wear that mantle. His 22:32 minutes per night comfortably leads all rookies (interestingly, second and third on that list are Habs’ rookies Jordan Harris & Kaiden Guhle), and he’s even getting time on the second PK unit while Mattias Samuelsson and Henri Jokiharju are on IR.

Projected Lineups

Buffalo Sabres

Forwards

Jeff Skinner - Tage Thompson - Alex Tuch

Peyton Krebs - Casey Mittelstadt - Victor Olofsson

Vinnie Hinostroza - Dylan Cozens - JJ Peterka

Jack Quinn - Zemgus Girgensons - Kyle Okposo

Defense

Rasmus Dahlin - Ilya Lyubushkin

Owen Power - Jacob Bryson

Lawrence Pilut - Casey Fitzgerald

Goaltenders: Craig Anderson, Eric Comrie (projected starter)

Scratches: Rasmus Asplund, Kale Clague

Injuries: Riley Sheahan, Henri Jokiharju, Mattias Samuelsson

Montreal Canadiens

Forwards

Cole Caufield - Nick Suzuki - Mike Hoffman

Sean Monahan - Kirby Dach - Jonathan Drouin

Josh Anderson - Christian Dvorak - Brendan Gallagher

Rem Pitlick - Jake Evans - Evgenii Dadonov

Defense

Kaiden Guhle - David Savard

Jordan Harris - Johnathan Kovacevic

Arbery Xhekaj - Chris Wideman

Goaltenders: Samuel Montembeault (projected starter), Jake Allen

Scratches:

Injuries: Carey Price, Paul Byron, Joel Edmundson, Jol Armia, Michael Matheson, Juraj Slafkovsky