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

A reeling and desperate team hits the Bell Centre ice, and it’s not the Canadiens.

Buffalo Sabres v Montreal Canadiens

Montreal Canadiens vs. 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
In the United States: NHL Network

As the clock ticked toward zero on Saturday night, it looked like the Montreal Canadiens were on the verge of doubling down on what had happened in Columbus. For the second game in a row, the Habs had scrambled to regain parity after spotting their opposition a two-goal lead. For the second game in a row, the other team had plunged a dagger into the hopes of the Canadiens and their fans when it looked like the bleu-blanc-et-rouge had seized the momentum.

Not so fast, said Nick and Cole.

The eventual shootout victory, plucked from the jaws of defeat, snapped a two-game losing streak for the Canadiens. Now, as the calendar moves toward American Thanksgiving, the Habs will try to continue their winning ways against the Buffalo Sabres.

Tale of the Tape

Canadiens Statistics Sabres
Canadiens Statistics Sabres
9-8-1 Record 7-11-0
45.8 (25th) Scoring-chances-for % 52.3 (8th)
3.06 (19th) Goals per game 3.44 (9th)
3.50 (26th) Goals against per game 3.67 (29th)
18.0% (27th) PP% 23.3% (10th)
81.4% (8th) PK% 70.2% (29th)
1-0-0 H2H Record 0-0-1

For the Sabres, Montreal is the last stop on a three-game Canadian road trip. The last time these two teams met, nearly a month ago, the Canadiens emerged with a 3-2 victory in the Empire State. Since then, the two teams have trod upon divergent paths. Montreal is a modest but still encouraging 5-4-1, but Buffalo has gone 3-8-0 and arrives in La Belle Province having gone not only winless, but also pointless in their last eight games.

Much of the Sabres’ woes lie at the feet of their netminders. During their first 10 games, Buffalo enjoyed .912 goaltending, and seven wins. Since then, it’s been .847 — and eight losses. Throughout the season, Eric Comrie has been the Sabres’ starter. However, he is out for several weeks after suffering an injury last Wednesday against the Ottawa Senators. Now, Buffalo must decide between 41-year-old backup Craig Anderson (who has an .881 save percentage over his last four appearances) or rookie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (who gave up five goals on 23 shots last Saturday against the Toronto Maple Leafs). Incidentally, Habs fans may be more familiar with Luukkonen than Anderson, since the Finn faced off against the Laval Rocket on October 28 of this year, a game that Laval won 8-1 and Luukkonen was pulled after allowing six goals.

The Sabres have also not been helped by an offence that has gone drier than the Sahara. After scoring 54 goals through their first 14 games, Buffalo has managed just eight in their last four, with half of those coming in a 5-4 loss to the Vancouver Canucks. The team clearly has offensive weapons: Tage Thompson and Rasmus Dahlin are still above a point-per-game pace, while Alex Tuch is just below that threshold. But after losing eight in a row, the Sabres just need someone — anyone — to put the puck in the net.

For the Canadiens, Saturday night against the Philadelphia Flyers simply reinforced the main theme of this season so far: this team lives and dies by Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield. The Canadiens’ captain has 23 points in 18 games, and has amazingly put up two points six time in his last eight games. On the other hand, Caufield’s brace against the Flyers broke a mini-slump where the Habs sniper had only lit the lamp once in five games. Secondary scoring has been a seemingly perpetual problem, but things might be turning: Christian Dvorak, Josh Anderson, Brendan Gallagher, and Mike Hoffman have all scored within the last five games, and Mike Matheson can contribute from the blue line as well.

Speaking of Matheson, his introduction forced Jordan Harris out of the lineup for Saturday night, and it remains to be seen if Harris will be reintroduced for either Arber Xhekaj or Johnathan Kovacevic, or whether Martin St-Louis will elect to stand pat with a winning lineup. If Monday’s practice is any indication, the pride of Costco Ancaster might be the odd man out.

Tuesday night will be enticing for both teams. For Buffalo, with the St. Louis Blues, New Jersey Devils, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Colorado Avalanche all looming in their next five games, the Canadiens represent arguably their best opportunity to pick up points for a long time. If they fail to do that, a nine-game losing skid could quickly spiral into a season-destroying 0-13 stretch. The Canadiens, conversely, will fly out to Columbus after the game for a rematch with the Blue Jackets on Wednesday night, making Buffalo likely their best chance of a win before American Thanksgiving.