NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Friday, October 10th (All times eastern)
Montreal Canadiens (0-0-0) at Buffalo Sabres (0-0-0), 7:30 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Montreal Canadiens will open their 100th year of existence on the road tonight against the Northeast Division-rival Buffalo Sabres in the season opener for both clubs at HSBC Arena.
Montreal is trying to build off an impressive 2007-08 campaign in which it led the Eastern Conference with 104 points and reached the second round of the playoffs. The Canadiens surprised everyone with their strong run to the postseason and head coach Guy Carbonneau is optimistic his team can move even further in 2008-09. Montreal defeated Boston in the opening round of the playoffs before bowing out to Philadelphia in the next round.
The Habs added some new faces to their roster as the team acquired veteran forward Alex Tanguay from Calgary on draft day and signed free agent enforcer Georges Laraque. Montreal also traded for veteran Robert Lang from Chicago to play alongside stars Alexei Kovalev and Saku Koivu. Kovalev had a team-high 84 points last season (35 goals, 49 assists) while Koivu ended the year with 16 markers and 40 assists (56 points). Center Tomas Plekanec added 69 points with 29 goals and 40 assists for the Canadiens, who went 47-25-10 last season.
Carbonneau and company open the season with three straight road games against the Sabres, Maple Leafs and Flyers. Goaltender Carey Price will surely feel the pressure away from home and went 24-12-3 with a 2.56 goals-against average as a rookie last season.
It has been reported the Habs granted Carbonneau a contract extension. He is entering the final year of a three-year contract, first signed when the former Montreal captain was named head coach prior to the 2006-07 season.
Buffalo will try to get back on track after a disappointing 2007-08 campaign. The Sabres went 39-31-12 last year and had a string of back-to-back playoff appearances come to an end. Head coach Lindy Ruff, whose team captured the President's Trophy with 113 points in 2006-07, is back behind the bench and, like Carbonneau, is expecting a big year from his players.
The Sabres avoided any contract problems by signing a few of their corps players such as goaltender Ryan Miller and forwards Derek Roy, Jason Pominville, Thomas Vanek and Jochen Hecht. Miller compiled a 36-27-10 record with a 2.64 GAA in a career high 76 games and has veteran Patrick Lalime to back him up. Lalime inked a deal in the offseason to provide more depth between the pipes.
Roy led the way with 81 points in 2007-08 and registered 32 goals and 49 assists. Pominville ended with 80 points (27 goals, 53 assists) and Vanek lit the lamp 36 times and added 28 assists. Hecht had 22 goals and 27 helpers for a total of 49 points as the Sabres were eliminated from postseason contention in the final week of the regular season.
After the Sabres host the Canadiens, they will pay a visit to the Islanders and Rangers.
Montreal has won three straight against Buffalo and went 5-3 in the season series a year ago, including a 2-2 mark as the visitor.
10/10 10:40:57 ET