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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Saturday, December 20th (All times eastern)

Buffalo Sabres (16-13-3) at Montreal Canadiens (17-9-5), 7 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The Canadiens always try to make the Bell Centre a tough place to play at for their opponents, but that hasn't been the case as of late. Montreal will try to build off its most recent home win when it hosts the Buffalo Sabres tonight.

Montreal is an excellent 10-4-3 as the host them this year, but endured a bit of a rough patch on a recent franchise-long homestand. The Canadiens won the first three games of that stand, but closed it by going 1-2-1 and netted just one goal a game in each of the three losses.

That slide carried over into a road game versus Carolina, a 3-2 setback, but Montreal returned to the Bell Centre on Monday to begin a three-game homestand and knocked off the Philadelphia Flyers, 5-2.

Sergei Kostitsyn, Steve Begin and Guillaume Latendresse each posted a goal and an assist, while Alex Kovalev's goal marked his 900th career point. Matt D'Agostini also scored and Robert Lang donated two assists.

Defenseman Mike Komisarek returned from a 16-game absence due to a shoulder injury and notched an assist to help the Habs halt their three-game losing streak.

Montreal hopes that Kovalev can build on his milestone, as he has just seven goals and 17 assists in 31 games this year after posting 35 goals and 49 assists in 82 games a season ago. He has 24 tallies and 24 helpers in 71 career games versus Buffalo.

Jaroslav Halak made 29 saves and had been in net for each game of the Canadiens' recent skid, as Carey Price remains sidelined due to a lower-body injury that followed a bout with the flu. Price is day-to-day.

Halak won his only other career start versus Buffalo, making 22 saves in the win.

The Sabres, who have won three straight on the road, blanked the Los Angeles Kings in Buffalo by a 5-0 count on Friday. Ryan Miller recorded his third shutout of the season and 10th of his career by making 40 saves.

Derek Roy had a goal and two assists to give him four goals and eight helpers on an eight-game point streak, while Drew Stafford notched a goal and an assist. Adam Mair, Clarke MacArthur and Matt Ellis added goals for Buffalo, which has won two of three and five of its last seven games.

The NHL's leading goal scorer with 24, Thomas Vanek was held without a goal for a second straight game, but did have an assist. He has three goals in two games versus Montreal this year and 10 in his 26 all-time games against the club.

Buffalo is 7-5-2 on the road this season.

The Sabres and Canadiens have split two games this year, with both teams winning once on home ice. Montreal has won four of the last five in the series in addition to two straight and six of the last seven as the host.

12/20 10:48:05 ET


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