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NHL Preview from The Sports Network

Thursday, April 3rd (All times eastern)

Buffalo Sabres (38-30-12) at Montreal Canadiens (45-25-10), 7:30 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The Buffalo Sabres will try to keep their faint playoff hopes alive tonight, when they visit the Northeast Division champion Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre.

The Sabres are three points out of the final playoff spot in the East with just two games to play and need a victory tonight to avoid being eliminated from the postseason race.

Now that the Canadiens have clinched the division crown, they can focus on securing the top seed in the Eastern Conference. The Habs are two points behind Pittsburgh for the No. 1 seed in the East with two games to play. Montreal will use its game in hand over the idle Penguins tonight.

The Canadiens won their first division title in 16 years on Tuesday, as they posted a road victory over the Ottawa Senators. Carey Price made 32 saves for his third career shutout to help the Habs notch a 3-0 decision at Scotiabank Place.

It marks the first division title for the Canadiens since they won the Adams title for the 1991-92 season.

Alex Kovalev had a goal and an assist for Montreal, which has won five of its last six games.

Price, a 20-year-old rookie, won his fifth straight start and improved to 22-12-3 on the season with a .918 save percentage and 2.64 goals against average.

The Canadiens are closing out the regular season on a two-game homestand that begins tonight and ends Saturday against Toronto. Montreal is 20-13-6 as the hosts this year and has won six of its last eight contests in Quebec.

The Sabres have won back-to-back and three of their last four games and are coming off Tuesday's dramatic victory in Toronto. Maxim Afinogenov scored the game-winning goal in the sixth round of the shootout, as Buffalo earned a 4-3 decision over the Maple Leafs.

Derek Roy, Steve Bernier and Thomas Vanek scored in regulation for the Sabres. Vanek's power-play goal with 5:21 to go in regulation sent the game into overtime.

Ryan Miller turned aside 19 shots for Buffalo, which won the Presidents' Trophy last season as the best team in the regular season. The Sabres are trying to avoid becoming the first team to win the Presidents' Trophy in one season and miss the postseason the next since the New York Rangers sat out the playoffs in 1992-93. The only other team to have the dubious distinction in the expansion era were the 1969-70 Canadiens.

Buffalo, which is 18-15-6 as the visitors this year, is closing out its schedule on a three-game road trip. The Sabres are playing the second test of that swing tonight and will complete their schedule Saturday at Boston.

Montreal is 4-3 against the Sabres this season and has taken seven of the last 11 meetings in the series. However, Buffalo has come out on top in six of its previous 10 stops at the Bell Centre.

04/03 10:49:55 ET

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