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Canadiens @ Sabres: Game preview, start time, Tale of the Tape, and how to watch

Montreal heads into Buffalo for the second and final time this season.

Montreal Canadiens v Buffalo Sabres Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images

Montreal Canadiens @ Buffalo Sabres

How to watch

Start time: 7:00 PM EST / 4:00 PM PST
In the Canadiens region: TSN2 (English), RDS (French)
In the Sabres region: MSG Buffalo
Streaming: ESPN+, NHL Live, RDS Direct, TSN Direct

When the Canadiens visited the Sabres in the second game of the season, it looked like a mismatch in Montreal’s favour. Buffalo’s only star player, Jack Eichel, was involved in a dispute with the team and not in the lineup, turning what was a poor team into a borderline minor-league one.

However, the Sabres looked nothing like a team resigned to another finish at the bottom of the standings. In their season-opener. Kyle Okposo set the tone with a power play goal early, and before the end of the night four teammates had joined him on the scoreboard in a convincing 5-1 win. At the end of October, they had gotten out to a 5-2-1 record to sit in second place in the Atlantic Division.

At that time, Victor Olofsson was leading the team in scoring. He was a point-per-game player with five goals, and unlike when he first broke into the league, those goals weren’t all being scored on the power play, but mostly at even strength.

Olofsson departed the lineup with an injury after a game on Halloween, and their starting goaltender, Craig Anderson, also went down around the same time. The simultanous losses of their top offensive and defensive players brought about a more familiar freefall for the club.

Tale of the Tape

Canadiens Statistics Sabres
Canadiens Statistics Sabres
5-14-2 Record 7-10-2
50.5% (16th) Scoring-chances-for % 46.7% (25th)
2.24 (29th) Goals per game 2.79 (19th)
3.62 (30th) Goals against per game 3.47 (28th)
14.1% (27th) PP% 21.2% (11th)
68.2% (29th) PK% 76.9% (26th)
0-1-0 H2H Record 1-0-0

Olofsson missed eight games, and Anderson still hasn’t recovered from his injury. The crease has been handed to former Canadiens goaltender Dustin Tokarski and Aaron Dell, and I suppose you could call it a tandem since they’ve both seen action in the same contest three times in the past four games. With neither goaltender able to make key saves, the club has followed up a 5-2-1 October with a 2-8-1 November. They’ve dropped to sixth place in the division, just four points up on Montreal.

With Olofsson out of commission, it was Tage Thompson stepping up for the team to keep its offensive clicking at a competitive rate; Buffalo has scored at least three goals seven times this month (though they only won one of those games). Thompson was part of the blockbuster trade that sent Ryan O’Reilly to the St. Louis Blues back in 2018, and at age 24 seems to be finding his footing in the NHL. He’s already one point off tying his NHL career high, and his 13 points would rank second on Montreal’s roster behind Nick Suzuki’s.

When it comes to unlikely sources of offence for the Canadiens, you may be surprised to hear that Artturi Lehkonen has eight points in his last eight games. Until last Saturday, he couldn’t find any goals, but he had been contributing the odd assist, and now ranks sixth on the team with nine points.

As much as we’ve thought about Lehkonen becoming a top-six player for Montreal since his incredible run in the SHL playoffs years ago, he probably shouldn’t be at that spot on the list — tied for fifth with Josh Anderson, even — given all the other forwards signed to offensive roles.

One of the most difficult slumps for the Canadiens to manage is that of Christian Dvorak, who was brought in for both offensive and defensive play, and so far has provided little of either. It’s left Suzuki to try to lead the team in scoring (which he is) while also being the sole focus of the opposing team’s best 200-foot players. At the same time, it’s raising the status of Jake Evans and Ryan Poehling to essentially middle-six expectations when they should be complementary bottom-six options. At the very least, this season is thrusting them into the spotlight to get used to elevated roles for (we can hope) a more competitive season in 2022-23.