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Game Preview: Montreal at Buffalo

November 26, 2021, 10:46 AM ET [723 Comments]
Hank Balling
Buffalo Sabres Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
The turkey’s been eaten, the dishes are done and it’s time for some Friday night Sabres action as Buffalo hosts Montreal at 7 pm. These two teams have only met once so far this year, as Buffalo took that contest 5-1 to open their season. Let’s take a look at some story lines to watch for entering tonight’s contest:

Struggle Bus: Both teams are struggling mightily recently with Buffalo owning a 2-7-1 record over their past 10 games, while Montreal has a 2-6-2 record over the same number of games. The Canadians are 5-14-2 on the season for a total of 12 points in 21 games. The Sabres enter tonight with a 4-point lead on the Canadiens in the standings through 19 games.

Not-So-Special-Teams: Montreal has poor numbers on both sides of the special-teams coin: They’re ranked 27th in the league on the power play and 29th in the league on the penalty kill. The Sabres, meanwhile, are ranked 11th on the power play and 26th on the penalty kill. The Sabres will have a good chance at a victory tonight if they’re able to draw 3+ penalties against the Habs.

Border Troubles: It’ll be interesting to see if the Sabres attract more Canadian spectators tonight than they did when Toronto was in town earlier in the month. That game didn’t look to have more than the 8,000ish fans that we have seen at most games this season. The Canadiens aren’t having a good season so I wouldn’t expect fans of the bleu, blanc et rouge to travel in large numbers, especially considering ongoing Covid concerns.

Et Le But: The Canadiens are second worst in the NHL in goal differential with a -29. While their goals-for number of 47 is low, but not terrible, their goals-against number this season is a whopping 76, which not only leads the division and conference, but the entire league. Christian Dvorak is a very ugly -16 so far this season and Josh Anderson isn’t far behind at -14. The Habs are likely missing the veteran presences of Shea Weber on the backend and Carey Price in net.

Balanced Scoring: The Canadiens are getting underwhelming goal numbers across the board so far this season, although they are getting at least some offense from a large part of their roster. Seven players are tied for the goal scoring lead with 4 so far: Nick Suzuki, Tyler Toffoli, Brendan Gallagher, Josh Anderson, Mike Hoffman, Jake Evans and Ben Chiarot all share goal-scoring lead.

What About Jeff?: Jeff Petry is off to a surprisingly rough start with no goals and 2 points through 21 games so far. The long-time Canadiens defenseman has put up double-digit goals and 40+ points in each of the past four seasons, which includes two pandemic-shortened campaigns. Petry had 42 points in 55 contests last year. That equates to a stellar 62-point pace over the duration of an 82-game schedule. Petry has been without his usual defense partner in Joel Edmundson who has been out for the entirety of the season due to injury. Edmundson is joining the Habs on their roadtrip which starts tonight in Buffalo, but he hasn’t been confirmed to be in the lineup against the Sabres.

In the Nets: It’s unclear whether Jake Allen (3.02 GAA, .898 SV%) or Sam Montembeault (3.58 GAA, .897 SV%) will go for the Habs tonight. Allen last played on Wednesday and Montreal plays Pittsburgh tomorrow night, so it’s possible that Montembeault draws in against the Sabres. For Buffalo, it will probably be Dustin Tokarski who had the night off Wednesday as Aaron Dell took the L for the blue and gold. This is not a battle of titans in net.

Leftovers: What’s the better Thanksgiving leftovers meal: Turkey sandwich or a plate of everything? I’ll have to see if there’s any bacon in my fridge because a turkey club sounds pretty good right about now.

Caufield Emerges: Cole Caufield, the 15th overall pick in the 2019 NHL draft, has struggled a bit this season since emerging as a shifty scoring threat during Montreal’s post-season run last year. The diminutive winger has 2 points in 13 contests this season and has spent a little bit of time in the AHL as well. Caufield potted his first goal of the season on Wednesday against the Capitals so it looks like things are heading in the right direction following a slow start. The Sabres surely hope that tonight isn’t a breakout game for the highly skilled forward.

Much Ado About Nothing: One of the largest storylines over the summer was the spite-based offersheet the Carolina Hurricanes gave to former Canadiens player Jesperi Kotkaniemi. The Hurricanes gave the Finnish-born forward a one-year, $6.1m contract as “revenge” for the Canadiens offering Sebastian Aho a contract previously. Kotkaniemi currently has 3 goals and 1 assist in 18 games for the Carolina Hurricanes, while the Canadiens received first-and-third round draft compensation in return. Sure, the first-round pick might be in the mid-20s range this year, but it still looks like Montreal made the right decision to let him go.

KK’s Replacement: The problem with that situation is that the Canadiens immediately turned around and gave the Arizona Coyotes a first-round pick for Christian Dvorak. The Canadiens will give the Coyotes their own first round pick, assuming it’s higher than the Hurricanes’ pick, unless one or both of the picks is in the top-10, in which case the Coyotes will get the lower pick. So it looks like the Coyotes will get the Hurricanes pick as the Canadiens pick looks to be in the top-10. Dvorak is having a rough go of it this year with 3 goals and 5 assists in 18 games, with a -16 rating. The advanced stats don’t look any better.



Woof.

So grab a tums, load up a slice of pie and settle in for what should be a high-scoring affair on MSG as the Sabres try to right the ship as the calendar turns to December.
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