SABRES (10-15-4) at CANADIENS (19-5-4)
TV: RDS, TSN, MSG-Buffalo
Last 10: Buffalo 4-3-3; Montreal 7-1-2
Season series: This is the third of five meetings this season between the Northeast Division rivals, and the first of two this week between the clubs in Montreal. The Canadiens beat the Sabres 6-1 at Bell Centre on Feb. 2 and lost 5-4 in a shootout in Buffalo on Feb. 7, a game in which the Sabres erased a 4-2 third-period deficit.
Big story: With the trade deadline just over two weeks away, the Sabres sit 14th in the Eastern Conference with just five wins in their last 17 games. If they're going to make a playoff push, Buffalo will have to start immediately or risk winding up a seller at the trade deadline.
Buffalo: The level of frustration on the Sabres appears to reaching a boiling point, with the latest episode featuring Patrick Kaleta complaining publicly about being a healthy scratch for his first game following the completion of a five-game suspension for a boarding incident involving Brad Richards of the New York Rangers.
Kaleta said prior to Sunday's 5-3 loss in Washington that he was angry he wouldn't be playing. When told of Kaleta's comments following the game, goaltender Ryan Miller told the Buffalo News that Kaleta was "being dramatic" and that he "needs to just grow up if he's going to say that."
Interim coach Ron Rolston appeared to suggest Kaleta was being sent a message by being scratched, telling the Buffalo News, "it's a situation where he understands that sitting out five games for him wasn't a good thing and it wasn't a good thing for our team."
The Sabres went 1-2-2 in Kaleta's absence.
Canadiens: Things are going so well for the Canadiens that anyone who gets inserted into the lineup appears to do so very smoothly. In recent weeks American Hockey League call-ups Greg Pateryn on defense and Gabriel Dumont at forward were able to fill in for injured players and not hurt the team. The latest examples came Saturday night in New Jersey, when Mike Blunden made his season debut at forward and rookie defenseman Jarred Tinordi played the first game of his NHL career, earning an assist on the game winning goal in the third period.
"For his first game, I thought he played a solid game," coach Michel Therrien said Monday.
The Canadiens fell to second place in the Eastern Conference over the weekend after the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Boston Bruins, but Montreal has two games in hand on the Penguins and trails by just two points. With the season hitting its final stretch, it is starting to become clearer that the Canadiens, who have lost just once in regulation in their past 17 games, are not going anywhere.
"It's our depth," center David Desharnais explained Monday. "Everyone has a role, everyone plays their role and everyone takes their role to heart. We all put the team first."
Who's hot: For the Sabres, center Cody Hodgson had his second two-goal game in his past six games Sunday in Washington, Jason Pominville has three assists in his past three games, Steve Ott has seven assists in 10 games. … For the Canadiens, center Tomas Plekanec is on a four-game point streak, with two goals and three assists in that span, and defenseman P.K. Subban has a goal and four assists in his last three games.
Injury report: The Sabres are without defenseman Alexander Sulzer (knee); he's expected to be out the rest of the season…The Canadiens are missing defensemen Raphael Diaz (concussion) and defenseman Yannick Weber (knee), left wing Rene Bourque (concussion) and left wing Brandon Prust (shoulder).