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NHL Preview from The Sports Network

Friday, March 28th (All times eastern)

Montreal Canadiens (43-24-10) at Buffalo Sabres (36-30-11), 7:30 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The Montreal Canadiens will need to post their fourth consecutive victory if they want to regain sole possession of the top spot in the Eastern Conference tonight. The Habs will try to do just that as they visit the Buffalo Sabres this evening at HSBC Arena.

Pittsburgh defeated the New York Islanders on Thursday to move one point ahead of the Canadiens for the East's top seed. Montreal, which has 96 points, has a game in hand over the idle Penguins and will try to make the most of it tonight.

The Canadiens are also four points ahead of Ottawa for first place in the Northeast Division. Montreal will also use its game in hand over the Senators tonight.

Buffalo, meanwhile, is five points behind Philadelphia and Boston for the final two postseason spots in the Eastern Conference. The Sabres have five games remaining in the regular season.

Montreal's most recent triumph came Monday in a wild contest against the rival Senators. Andrei Kostitsyn scored two goals to help the Canadiens post a 7-5 victory over the visiting Senators at the Bell Centre.

The win made Montreal the first Eastern Conference team to clinch a playoff this season. The Habs are back in the postseason for the first time since 2006 after missing out on the playoffs a year ago.

Andrei Markov posted a goal and an assist for the Canadiens. Alex Kovalev and Maxim Lapierre collected two helpers, while Carey Price stopped 31-of-36 shots to pick up the win.

Tonight's test marks the opener of a three-game road trip for Montreal, which has an impressive 23-11-4 away from Quebec this season and has won six of its last eight as the visitors. The Habs, who will also make stops in Toronto and Ottawa during this swing, will close out the regular season on a two-game homestand.

The Sabres are coming off a victory on Thursday night, as they posted a close win in Ottawa. Derek Roy scored the game-winner in the shootout as Buffalo notched a 4-3 decision at Scotiabank Place.

Maxim Afinogenov, Paul Gaustad and Jochen Hecht each scored for the Sabres, who stopped a two-game slide. Ryan Miller made 25 saves in the win.

Tonight marks the first of two straight at home for Buffalo, which is 19-15-5 as the hosts this year. However, the Sabres have lost six of eight and eight of their last 11 at HSBC.

The Sabres and Canadiens have split six meetings this season, but Montreal has taken six of the last 10 encounters between the clubs. However, the Habs have also lost five of their previous eight in Buffalo.

03/28 10:57:40 ET

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