With the All-Star festivities now behind us, the Montreal Canadiens get set to host the Buffalo Sabres for the second time in just over a week - this time around hoping for a slightly better result.
These two teams last met on January 21, of course, which was an evening that saw Buffalo take two points thanks to the overtime heroics of Sabres defenceman Zach Bogosian.
All eyes tonight, though, may be on the Habs’ blue-line where Nikita Nesterov should be expected to make his Canadiens debut. The 23-year-old Russian was acquired from Tampa Bay last week and adds more depth to the team’s defensive corps.
How to watch
Puck drop: 7:30 PM EST / 4:30 PM PST
In Canada: SNE (English), RDS (French)
In the United States: MSG-B
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/NHL Gamecenter Live, NHL Center Ice
Tale of the Tape
|52.35||Score-Adjusted Corsi %||47.43|
|1.27||5v5 Goal Ratio||0.90|
The Buffalo Sabres are, undoubtedly, a team moving in the right direction. The likes of Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart, and Rasmus Ristolainen are all spectacular building blocks for a franchise that has lacked direction for a number of years.
Unfortunately for Sabres fans, though, this year has not been the one for the team to break out. Tied for last in the Eastern Conference, the Sabres have had trouble finding the results they’ve been looking for - due in large part to a lack of steady offensive production.
Dan Bylsma’s Buffalo squad is frequently out-possessed, sitting among the league’s worst in CF%. While Robin Lehner has been every bit as good as they could have hoped between the pipes with a .920 SV%, the Sabres’ scoring hasn’t been strong enough to offset their poor possession.
There are signs, though, that that may not be the case for too much longer. The aforementioned Eichel has been impressive this season with 21 points in 27 games, and we may be talking about a team with a different record has he not been sidelined at the beginning of the year.
The much-maligned Evander Kane has been contributing more offensively as of late, recording seven points in his past five games, including a three-point outing against the Dallas Stars just before the All-Star break. Kane has had his issues this season finding consistency, but with a hot hand there are few who can be as dangerous.
Ultimately, the Sabres are a difficult team to classify. Far from contenders this season though they may be, Buffalo boasts enough young talent to be a threat on any given night - something the Canadiens learned earlier this month. Trending in the right direction, the Sabres may soon be a force in the Atlantic Division.
For now, though, the Sabres represent a winnable game - something the Habs could surely make use of after a very busy month of January that offered Habs fans little in the way of consistency.