How to watch
Start time: 7:00 PM EST / 4:00 PM PST
In Canada: TSN2 (English), RDS (French)
In the Sabres region: MSG Buffalo
Streaming: NHL.tv/NHL Live
The momentum the Canadiens had built up before the bye week was halted by the long layoff. As you would probably expect, they were a bit slow out of the gate in their first game in nine days, largely unable to find their legs versus the Washington Capitals, and unable to find the third goal they needed to tie the game up before it was iced with an empty-netter.
Tonight, they play a team very much like themselves. The Sabres have the same number of points in one less game played. The overal situation of the franchise is similar as well, with their level of available talent promising a better fate before the season than what they’re staring at with two months remaining.
Tale of the Tape
|53.6% (4th)||Corsi-for pct.||49.2% (18th)|
|3.02 (17th)||Goals per game||2.92 (20th)|
|3.14 (22nd)||Goals against per game||3.12 (20th)|
|20.1% (13th)||PP%||19.3% (20th)|
|78.7% (22nd)||PK%||74.0 (29th)|
Despite having a 63-point man in Jack Eichel, the Sabres have scored 10 fewer goals than the Canadiens; under the 3.00-goals-per-game average that most post-season teams are achieving. A defence that never was quite at the level of the top-six forward corps is unable to compensate, and that is especially felt on the penalty kill, a situation in which the Sabres rank third-worst in the league.
You won’t find Montreal in such a lowly spot anymore. Flirting with the bottom rank for most of the 2019 portion of the calendar, the Canadiens have climbed the ranks to sit 22nd with a man disadvantage. Considering that their high-danger chances against stat has actually been higher in January than it was from October to December, it seems it’s not a major shift in the strategy, but a credit to Carey Price’s great play so far in 2020, posting a .933 save percentage since New Year’s Day.
Unlike the Canadiens, the Sabres have been decently strong at home this season, at least winning more games than they’ve lost. They certainly used home ice to their advantage in wins over the Florida Panthers and the Vegas Golden Knights in recent weeks, and also had fans at the KeyBank Center going home happy in the Canadiens’ first visit back in October. That 5-4 win was part of the great start to 2019-20 that had people thinking that, finally, this would be the Sabres’ year. A lacklustre performance on Tuesday night that ended in a 5-2 defeat signified that it probably wouldn’t be.
The Habs and Sabres are now going to play out the next month of games hoping for a miraculous winning streak to salvage a season, while the expectations now will be that some players in tonight’s game on won’t be with their respective club after the February 24 trade deadline.