NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Saturday, April 3rd (All times eastern)
Buffalo Sabres (43-24-10) at Montreal Canadiens (38-32-8), 7 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Buffalo Sabres hope to get a chance at clinching the Northeast Division title when they visit the Montreal Canadiens tonight at Bell Centre.
The Sabres enter Saturday with a five-point lead over Ottawa for the division crown. Buffalo can claim its first Northeast title since 2006-07 if the Senators lose in regulation this afternoon against the New York Islanders and the Sabres follow up with a victory tonight in Montreal.
Buffalo, which has already clinched a playoff berth, also comes into today with a one-point lead over Pittsburgh and New Jersey for the East's second seed. Both the Penguins and Devils have games on Saturday.
As for tonight's matchup, the Sabres lost their first game of the season to Montreal but have since won four straight in the series. Buffalo has taken seven of eight overall from the Habs and has won three in a row in Montreal.
While the Sabres have already punched their ticket to the playoffs, Montreal is still locked in a dog fight for a place in the postseason. The Canadiens are holding on to the sixth seed in the East, but are just two points ahead of Boston and Philadelphia for the final two playoff berths. Atlanta and the New York Rangers are lurking just two points further back.
Montreal earned an important victory Friday night in Philadelphia, downing the Flyers by a 1-0 score in regulation. Jaroslav Halak stopped all 35 shots he faced to post his fourth shutout of the season.
"Especially in third period, the puck was all over me," Halak said of the home team's pressure. "I was lucky but we'll take it."
Tomas Plekanec recorded the lone score for the Canadiens, who had lost five of six coming into Friday's contest.
Montreal played the Flyers without forward Sergei Kostitsyn (lower body) and defenseman Jaroslav Spacek (flu-like symptoms). Both players are questionable for tonight's test.
The Canadiens are 19-16-4 as the host and are playing their second-to-last home game of the regular season. Montreal will play its next two games on the road before returning home for its season finale against Toronto next Saturday.
The Sabres had a three-game winning streak halted their last time out, dropping a 4-2 decision Thursday in Toronto. Luke Schenn was credited with the game-winning goal in the third period for the Maple Leafs, who sent Buffalo to just its second loss in nine games.
Derek Roy and Steve Montador scored for Buffalo, while Ryan Miller allowed three goals on 33 shots in the loss.
Buffalo forwards Thomas Vanek and Tim Connolly both missed the game with lower-body injuries and are expected to sit out tonight as well. Vanek has sat out the last three games, while Connolly has missed the last four.
The Sabres had won four straight on the road prior to Thursday's loss. Buffalo is 19-14-4 as the guest this season.
04/03 10:54:39 ET