Tue, 30 May 2023

Showing signs of life, Sabres host Canadiens

Field Level Media
27 Mar 2023, 03:40 GMT+10

Though the Buffalo Sabres may fall short of ending their lengthy playoff drought, they continue to push.

Meanwhile, the Montreal Canadiens are just looking to finish a disappointing season in strong fashion.

The Sabres aim for a third consecutive victory when they host the Canadiens on Mondaynight.

With 10 games left in the regular season, Buffalo (35-31-6, 76 points) has a chance to post at least 40 wins for the first time since 2010-11. That was also the last time the Sabres made the playoffs. However, they entered Sunday six points out of the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, with a team ahead of them.

Buffalo is just 4-8-2 since Feb. 28, but two of those victories have come in the last two games. Kyle Okposo broke a scoreless tie in the third period, Jeff Skinner added an empty-netter and Eric Comrie stopped 26 shots in a 2-0 road victory over the New York Islanders on Saturday.

"There's been some emphasis put on (a postseason push), put on the playoffs, put on results," Okposo said. "I think it caused us to get a little bit too emotional over the past three weeks to a month. And, I think our game suffered a little bit because of that."

For the moment, Buffalo is back on track with a chance to win back-to-back home contests for the first time since Jan. 19 and 21. Skinner has three points in three games, while Tage Thompson (44 goals, 45 assists) continues his pursuit of a 50-goal season.

Thompson and Skinner combined for three goals and six assists during the Sabres' 7-2 win at Montreal on Nov. 22. Skinner also scored in a 3-2 home loss to the Canadiens (29-38-6, 64 points) on Oct. 27.

Rafael Harvey-Pinard recorded his first-career hat trick, while Nick Suzuki and Mike Hoffman combined for two goals with five assists as Montreal posted its highest-scoring game of the season with Saturday's 8-2 home victory over Columbus.

Just 3-8-2 in March, the Canadiens have not won consecutive games since Feb. 21 and 24.

"I feel like we're playing good hockey, (but) we just haven't been rewarded in the goal department," Suzuki said. "(Saturday's result), I think, it gives a lot of guys confidence finishing this stretch here."

Suzuki has matched a career high with his team-leading 61 points and is two assists shy of the personal-best 40 set last season. However, he's been held without a point in the two meetings with Buffalo this season.

Montreal's Jake Allen is mired in an 0-6-1 rut and has allowed 16 goals in his last three appearances. He also allowed all seven goals, on 38 shots faced, in that home loss to Buffalo on Nov. 22. Meanwhile, teammate Sam Montembeault has yielded two goals in winning his last two starts.

Buffalo has started a different goaltender in each of the last three games. Craig Anderson (3.07 goals-against average) stopped 29 of 31 shots at Montreal in November.

Comrie (3.72 GAA), who made his first start Saturday since March 9, made 31 saves in the home loss to the Canadiens in October. Meanwhile, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (3.68 GAA) has allowed 15 goals during his last three starts.

--Field Level Media

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