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Canadiens vs Sabres: Game preview, start time, and TV schedule

The Habs look to turn things around after a disappointing loss in their first game back after the All-Star break

Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

On the heels of yet another loss Tuesday night, the Canadiens have little time to dwell on things as they gear up for their second game of a back-to-back, this time taking on the Buffalo Sabres.

It was undoubtedly a disappointing result for the Habs and their fans, who would certainly have hoped for a turn of fortune after a much-needed All-Star break. That, of course, is not how things turned out. Instead, things felt frustratingly similar in Philadelphia, and the team now faces an important game against the Sabres.

Tonight's showdown may turn out to be fairly meaningless in the grand scheme of the season, at least when it comes to the standings. Two points here would help the Habs if they hope to climb back into playoff contention, but what might matter even more is simply proving that they can do it.

The Habs have now dropped three straight games - one to the aforementioned Flyers, and two to the Columbus Blue Jackets. With a losing streak to teams who sit 11th and 16th in the Eastern conference respectively, a fourth in a row to the 15th-placed Sabres would be quite telling.

How to Watch

Start time: 7:00 PM ET
In Canada (French): RDS
In Canada (English): Sportsnet
Elsewhere: NHL GameCenter, NHL Center Ice

Tale of the Tape

Canadiens Statistic Sabres
24-23-4 Record 20-26-4
2-7-1 L10 Record 5-5-0
53.4 Score-Adjusted Corsi % 46.5
138 Goals For 114
138 Goals Against 136
0.94 5v5 Goal Ratio 0.73
17.6 PP% 20.9
83.4 PK% 80.6

Know Your Enemy

The Sabres are a young team, still very much in their development stages as they continue to struggle along near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings. Progress has undoubtedly been made, with the Sabres being much more competitive on a regular basis than even this time last year, but there is still much room to grow.

Leading the charge is rookie Jack Eichel, the second overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Eichel has been a huge presence for the youthful Sabres in his first year in the league, with his 34 points in 50 games good enough for second on the team, behind only Ryan O'Reilly. Eichel's fellow rookie, Sam Reinhart, has also had an impressive showing, notching 20 points of his own through 47 games.

O'Reilly, meanwhile, is one of two big name forwards who made their Sabres debuts at the beginning of this season, along with Evander Kane. While both have had their off-ice concerns, O'Reilly has quickly made many forget about them with the 40 points he has registered thus far. Kane has had a bit more difficulty, with just 19 points on the season to date, though he has had impressive possession numbers this year with a Corsi Rel of 5.48%, ranking third on the team.

On the defensive side of things, the Sabres have opted to build around Finnish blue-liner Rasmus Ristolainen, who has 31 points already, despite being just 21 years old. Ristolainen is undoubtedly the future of the Sabres' defensive core, which is rounded out by such players as Cody Franson, and former-Hab Josh Gorges.

Last Time Out

These division rivals have met only once so far this season, with tonight's match-up marking the first game between the two sides since October 23. Those, of course, were days when the story of the Habs' season was a very different tale.

Having won seven straight games to open the season before this meeting, the Canadiens were looking unbeatable. Their performance against the Sabres on this night would do little to disturb that appearance, as the Habs out-gunned the Sabres en route to a 7-2 thumping.

Dale Weise opened things up for his side in the first period after receiving a pass back from P.K. Subban and making no mistake on the finish. The Canadiens would add to their lead when Brendan Gallagher forced the puck past Chad Johnson less than a minute into the second, putting the Habs up 2-0.

Buffalo would knot things up in the second, though things would not stay level for long. Former Sabre Torrey Mitchell struck against his one-time team, re-directing a Subban shot into the back of the net, restoring the Canadiens' lead. Gallagher and Weise would each add another on the evening, joined by captain Max Pacioretty, sealing the team's eighth straight victory.

Things have become a bit more gloom since the elation that was being felt throughout the fan-base the last time the Habs and Sabres faced off. If the Canadiens have any hope of finding their way back to such a feeling this season, they can't afford to wait any longer. The Sabres are the type of squad a playoff team should not struggle to beat, but lately, whether or not the Habs are a playoff team is more than a bit up-in-the-air.