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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Friday, October 6th (All times eastern)

Montreal Canadiens (0-0-0) at Buffalo Sabres (1-0-0), 7:30 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The Montreal Canadiens will head to upstate New York tonight to open their 2006-07 season against the Buffalo Sabres at HSBC Arena.

Montreal was ousted in six games by the eventual Stanley Cup-champion Carolina Hurricanes in last year's Eastern Conference quarterfinals. Guy Carbonneau will make his debut as the 28th head coach in Habs history and his team is 47-26-15 all-time in season openers.

Carbonneau was hired by general manager Bob Gainey in January as associate coach of the Habs last season.

The Canadiens were busy this offseason and solidified the goaltender spot by re-signing Cristobal Huet to a two-year contract. Huet set career highs with 18 wins and seven shutouts in 2005-06 and notched a 2.20 goals-against average with a .929 save percentage in 36 games.

Also inking deals with Montreal were defenseman Francis Bouillon, forward Chris Higgins, backup goaltender David Aebischer, right wing Alexander Perezhogin and forward Michael Ryder. The club also acquired defenseman Janne Niinimaa from Dallas last month.

The biggest move, though, was signing left wing Sergei Samsonov to a two-year deal. Samsonov recorded 23 goals and 30 assists for 53 points and 28 penalty minutes for both the Bruins and the Oilers last year.

Also, star center Saku Koivu underwent surgery to repair a torn retina in his left eye and is ready for another shot at the title. The Habs' captain was hurt when he was high-sticked in the eye by Carolina's Justin Williams in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.

Koivu finished the 2005-06 campaign with 17 goals and a team-high 45 assists in 72 games for Montreal, which is 13-13-5 in season openers on the road. Koivu and Alexei Kovalev, who had a team-high 65 points in 69 games last season, are expected to lead the charge again.

Buffalo, meanwhile, started its season on a good note by defeating the Hurricanes 3-2 in a shootout on Wednesday night.

Daniel Briere scored the lone shootout goal at RBC Center, while Chris Drury and Jason Pominville tallied in regulation. Netminder Ryan Miller stopped 32 shots and all three skaters in the shootout to preserve the victory.

Miller is 4-0-1 with a 1.78 goals-against average and .944 save percentage lifetime against the Canadiens.

Buffalo went 5-3 against Montreal last season and has won the last two meetings. The Sabres, who are 9-2-1 at home against Montreal since the start of the 2001-02 season, have won five of six and seven of the last 11 meetings.

10/06 10:25:03 ET


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