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Game Day - Sabres - February 3

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

- The Canadiens held a morning skate at the Bell Sports Complex on Tuesday ahead hosting the visiting Buffalo Sabres at the Bell Centre.

Jacob De La Rose will make his NHL debut opposite the Sabres on Tuesday.

- Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau skated alone in Brossard prior to the start of practice. The 31-year-old forward, who is currently sidelined with a concussion, worked out with team therapist Vincent Roof-Racine for a second day in a row before heading off the ice.

- Lars Eller, who left Sunday’s game during the second intermission with a lower body injury was back at practice on Tuesday after enjoying a day off on Monday.

Head coach Michel Therrien hinted during his pre-game press conference that if everything continues to go well this afternoon, Eller will dress against Buffalo. The Habs bench boss also confirmed that Gabriel Dumont would play a second game with the big club, but did not identify Tuesday’s scratches. Mike Weaver and Manny Malhotra, who stayed on the ice long after the end of practice, could however be in the press gallery opposite the Sabres.

- Called up from the Hamilton Bulldogs on Monday, Jacob De La Rose was at practice on Tuesday. The 19-year-old forward has played 37 games with the Bulldogs this season, registering six goals and five assists while going plus-7 over that span.

De La Rose, who also captained Sweden at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship will make his NHL debut on Tuesday, after skating with linemates Eller and Jiri Sekac at practice.

“I’m happy to be here,” acknowledged the Swedish center who arrived in North America this year. “There was a bit of an adjustment period at first, but I’m really happy with where my game is at now. I’m playing with a lot of confidence since the World Juniors. I had a good tournament and returned to Hamilton with a lot of confidence, which has paid off.”

The decision to start De La Rose on Tuesday isn’t a short-term one for Therrien.

“We like the way he’s progressed this season. He’s got the attributes of an NHL player. We want to see him continue to develop, and playing a game up here is part of that,” admitted the 51-year-old coach. “He’s had a pretty incredible year so far. First he went pro in the AHL, then he represented his country at the World Juniors, and now he’s going to play in the NHL.”

- A familiar face will be at the Bell Centre on Tuesday, as former Hab Josh Gorges is set to make his on-ice return in Montreal after missing the two teams’ previous meeting on November 28 with an injury.

“It was good to see Josh yesterday. We went out for steak in Old Montreal and we’re excited to play against each other. He’s a competitive guy and I’m eager to go up against him,” described Brendan Gallagher of his former teammate and housemate.

There’s no question Gorges meanwhile, just like Sabres teammate Brian Gionta, will have a little extra motivation when stepping back onto the Bell Centre ice.

“To not be racking up wins this season must be tough for a competitor like him. But he’s a professional, and I know he’ll give 100% no matter what the circumstances are,” continued Gallagher. “Every shift will be a battle against him. It’s going to be tough.”

- Coming off a surprise loss to the 27th-place Arizona Coyotes on Sunday, the Habs now prepare for another team looking to play spoiler for a third time this season.

Despite owning just a 14-33-3 record in 2014-15, the Sabres enter Tuesday’s game with a 2-0-1 advantage over the Habs – their last road win notably coming in a 4-3 shootout decision on November 29 at the Bell Centre.

With one final game between the two Atlantic Division rivals set to get underway, Montreal will have the opportunity to prove that Buffalo has not, in fact, had their number this season.

“That’s news to me,” offered Max Pacioretty, who is a plus-1 with one goal and 18 shots in three games against the Sabres this year. “But we just focus on ourselves – that’s what makes us successful for 60 minutes and that’s the only way we’ll win games. We can’t worry about outside noise or what team we’re playing.”

Although the Sabres hold just 31 points in the standings – 36 less than the Habs and 29 less than eighth-place Washington – Buffalo nevertheless arrives in Montreal with lots on the line.

“They have a lot to prove. Everyone over there is playing for contracts – playing to keep their jobs – so they’re definitely a hungry bunch,” added the 26-year-old forward. “When you’re playing a team like that, they’re going to be intense and if we don’t match that intensity we’re going to end up not winning the game. We’ve got to find a way to play a full 60 minutes and tonight’s a good opportunity to do that.”

With a division rival in the building, Tuesday will also be a good opportunity to gain some ground on the Eastern Conference leading Lightning while also separating from the rest of the pack.

“We can’t control what Tampa or Boston or anyone else does, but we can control what we do and hopefully we play well enough to get the two points at the end of the day.”

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