MONTREAL – Just 92 hours after seeing the Sabres skip town with an overtime win, the Canadiens will have a chance to exact revenge at the Bell Centre.
Despite playing some of their best hockey in the opening periods so far this season, the Habs came out of the gates a little slower than expected on Tuesday night. After seeing the Sabres carry a 2-0 lead into the first intermission during their last visit to Montreal, the Canadiens will be looking to play the opening minutes of Saturday’s game the same way they played the last.
“Tuesday was a tough game. It took us a while to get going,” admitted Colby Armstrong, who tied the game at two with just under four minutes to go in the tilt. “We just have to be ready. It’s tough to win in this league no matter what, and if you’re not ready and you get behind, it’s tough to battle back. The key is our start and we’ll just take it from there.”
Facing off against their only northeast division opponent not currently in playoff position doesn’t mean the Canadiens will be taking Buffalo lightly. Currently sitting 12th in the East, the Sabres have clawed their way back into contention with a 4-3-3 record in their last 10 games, narrowing the gap between themselves and a playoff berth down to four points. While the second-place Habs are coming off a convincing 5-2 win in Long Island on Wednesday night and haven’t lost in regulation since March 5, Michel Therrien will still be looking for a little extra dash of desperation in his team’s performance on Saturday night.
“The thing that’s tough is when you’re playing against teams who are playing with so much energy, pushing to keep their playoff hopes alive,” explained Therrien, whose own team has gone 7-1-2 in the last 10 games. “They know they can’t lose games. We need to match that energy level when we play against teams like that. When you look at the last game we played against Buffalo, we weren’t good enough in the first period. We picked it up after that but we need a better start.”
Improving on the team’s first 20 minutes isn’t the only adjustment the Habs will be bringing to the table on Saturday night. After seeing just 34 of the Canadiens’ 81 attempted shots make it on net on Tuesday, Therrien will be looking for a little more precision when his team hits the ice this time around.
“The last time we played those guys, we didn’t hit the net often,” mentioned Therrien, who will face Ryan Miller in place of Jhonas Enroth on Saturday. “We threw the puck at the net, but sometimes that goes with concentration when you shoot and miss the net. When we practice, it’s not like we’re not asking the guys to not shoot it on net. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of concentration.”
Ready to come to work prepared to pick up where his team left off during their most recent home game, Josh Gorges isn’t worried about history repeating itself in the rematch.
“We made the adjustments and corrected the changes after the first period. It was just a matter of we weren’t on our toes. We weren’t jumping; we were hesitant and playing a little bit too loose,” offered the Habs assistant captain. “When we started going, we started dictating the pace of play and I think we gave ourselves a real chance to win that game. It was unfortunate we still lost in overtime, but if we can string together three periods like we did the last two, I think we’ll win the game.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
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