Looking to rebound from a tough loss to the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night, the Montreal Canadiens head across the border to Buffalo, where they'll take on the Sabres in their second game in as many days.
With a depleted lineup, we can expect the youth to once again get a look from the Canadiens' coaching staff tonight, as they continue to evaluate all of the players in the organization ahead of what is sure to be a busy summer in Montreal.
The Canadiens' opponents represent a team in a similar situation. With their season effectively over as well, the Sabres are looking ahead to the draft, where they hope to add another top prospect to their budding young roster.
While both teams have been favoured to lose, more often than not, it may actually be the Sabres who one might expect to come away with two points in this game, as they've been able to rest since Saturday night, while the Habs are set to play the aforementioned second half of a back-to-back.
In any event, the result of this match-up won't mean much in the grand scheme of the season - though it could have some consequences for the draft lottery. For Habs fans, the rest of the season is about seeing what the young players are capable of, and we should see more of them tonight.
How to Watch
Start time: 7:00 PM EST
In Canada (French): RDS
In Canada (English): Sportsnet
Elsewhere: NHL GameCenter, NHL Center Ice
Tale of the Tape
|52.1||Score-Adjusted Corsi %||46.3|
|0.93||5v5 Goal Ratio||0.79|
Know Your Enemy
The Buffalo Sabres have been going through what has become a lengthy rebuild, but they have begun to find an identity to build on this season. With an influx of talented young players in their lineup, the Sabres are a team that, while not very dangerous this season, will certainly represent a major threat in the future.
All eyes have been on Jack Eichel, the second overall selection of the Sabres in last June's NHL Entry Draft. Eichel has certainly lived up to the hype, scoring 48 points in his first 70 games in the league thus far. While the accomplishments of certain other first-year players have overshadowed the American, Eichel is looking every bit what was promised to Sabres fans on draft day.
Ryan O'Reilly joins Eichel among the Sabres' top scorers, with as many points as the rookie in 11 fewer games. O'Reilly joined the Sabres this season after being traded from Colorado, and hasn't missed a step. Sam Reinhart has also helped the Sabres take a step forward this year, his 34 points and 4.99 CF% Rel (second among forwards) making him an important contributor.
Rasmus Ristolainen is the Sabres number one defender of both the present and future. The towering Finnish blue-liner has put up a career-high 37 points on the season so far. Ristolainen has made tremendous progress from his rookie and sophomore years, and is certainly developing into one of the premier young defenders in the NHL. Still, Ristolainen hasn't had much help from a fairly shallow Buffalo defensive corps, and that is unquestionably one of the factors holding them back, though they still have plenty of time to address the need.
Like the Canadiens, the Sabres have had a number of goaltenders between the pipes this season. Chad Johnson has seen the most action of the three netminders, though the Sabres are hopeful Robin Lehner will develop into the franchise goaltender they have been seeking. With a .926 SV% in 2015-16, Lehner may be well on his way to becoming just that.
Last Time Out
It hasn't been long since the last meeting between the Canadiens and Sabres - the two teams did battle most recently this past Thursday. Meeting now a week later, the Habs will be hoping for a similar result. The game, however, was unfortunately overshadowed by the very scary incident involving P.K. Subban, as the Habs top defenseman suffered an injury that continues to keep him out of action.
After a bit of an uneventful opening twenty, it was actually the Sabres who would strike first, thanks to Nicolas Deslauriers' shot from the blue-line, which beat Mike Condon cleanly, and gave Buffalo a one-goal lead. The Habs would not trail for long, however, as Alex Galchenyuk kept his hot-streak, getting his team on the board off a nifty back-pass from Max Pacioretty.
Galchenyuk would add another in the second period, putting the puck into the back of the net from the door-step, converting on a beautiful Sven Andrighetto pass, and marking his third consecutive game with two goals.
Former Canadiens captain Brian Gionta tied things up again in the third, after tipping an Evander Kane shot through traffic. The game would remain locked up until a little over midway through the period, when Torrey Mitchell returned the favour, scoring on his former team, and cementing the 3-2 victory for the Habs.