SABRES (26-22-6) at CANADIENS (31-20-6)
TV -- RDS (HD), VERSUS (HD), TSN-HABS (HD)
Last 10 -- Sabres 7-2-1; Canadiens 5-3-2
Season series -- This is the fifth meeting between the clubs this season. The Canadiens are 3-0-1 so far with regulation wins in the first three contests before an overtime loss in Buffalo on Jan. 18.
Big Story -- While the Habs continue their battle with Boston for first in the Northeast Division and look ahead to the 2011 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic on Sunday in Calgary, the Sabres are battling just to get into playoff position. It's hard to call a game a must-win at this stage of the season, but it's nearing that point for the Sabres, who entered the week four points out of a playoff spot despite a recent hot streak.
Sabres -- They're 12-4-2 over their last 18 games dating to Dec. 28, but all anyone is talking about now is their brutal 7-6 overtime loss to the Islanders on Sunday. The Sabres blew three leads in that game, including a 4-2 advantage they claimed early in the second period. They simply can not score six goals against the No. 14 team in the Eastern Conference and lose the game.
Goalie Ryan Miller, who has started 31 consecutive games, expressed his frustration in front of the media following the game. However, he said he felt fine despite giving up seven goals on 26 shots. According to the Buffalo News, Sabres coach Lindy Ruff would not reveal who he will start Tuesday in Montreal. Patrick Lalime is Miller's backup. The Sabres also host Toronto on Wednesday to start a six-game homestand.
"You're going to have bad games, games that just don't go your way, and games where you can't do anything right but somehow you still win," Miller said according to the Sabres' website. "I'm just going to shake it off and be a veteran player. It's a frustrating loss (Sunday), but looking back on the stretch of games, we've done what we had to do as a team to get ourselves into a positive situation and we can't let last night turn into a negative."
Canadiens -- They've got two more games before the big one Sunday on the outdoor rink at McMahon Stadium in Calgary, and the Habs can't afford to get caught looking ahead if they want to stay in the division race.
Montreal is coming off a solid 3-0 win against Toronto this past Saturday, which snapped a three-game losing streak. The Canadiens head west to play in Edmonton on Thursday before they arrive in Calgary for the Heritage Classic. The Habs hope to have Mathieu Darche in the lineup Tuesday. He missed the last two games with a lower-body injury. Michael Cammalleri remains out with a separated shoulder, but practiced with the team Monday and hopes to play Sunday in the Heritage Classic.
"I'm doing everything I can to be ready for the game," Cammalleri said during a conference call Monday. "I'm not able to take contact just yet, but I'm working on it. So I feel good."
Who's Hot -- Buffalo forward Drew Stafford was the NHL's Second Star of the Week (Feb. 7-13). He had a pair of hat tricks and has 8 goals in his last four games. Stafford has a career-high 23 goals in just 36 games this season.
Injury Report -- Sabres defenseman Steve Montador (concussion symptoms) may be ready to play Tuesday, but the Sabres have a surplus of blueliners. … Canadiens defenseman Hal Gill is day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
Stat Pack -- The Habs are 5-3-2 since Cammalleri left the lineup with his shoulder injury. Montreal goalie Carey Price has more than doubled his win total from last season (27-13) and has six shutouts after not recording any last season. … Miller has started every game for the Sabres since Nov. 26. Jhonas Enroth was the last goalie not named Miller to start for Buffalo -- Nov. 24.
Puck Drop -- "I said last week, I met with Ryan and we laid out a schedule that goes all the way into March, so we're just going to stick to it," Ruff said Monday, according to the Sabres' website. "I'm not announcing what my plans are for the next two games, but I'll announce that I do have a schedule."