MONTREAL - A new month has begun and chances are the Habs are more than happy to put the shortest month of the year behind them. After winning just twice in the first three weeks of February, the Canadiens have picked up four straight Ws in the final seven days. A large part of that success is courtesy of Jaroslav Halak, who opposing teams might want to check for a fever. The Slovak netminder has been burning Montreal’s adversaries with save after save after save…after save. He’s seen more rubber than the potholes that adorn the city’s streets and has been equally frustrating.
Canadiens @ Sabres – Wednesday, March 4 @ 7:30 PM
March opens up with a three-game road trip beginning in Buffalo, where the Canadiens aim to widen the six-point gap they hold on the currently ninth-place Sabres. While Saku Koivu and Co. are enjoying a wave of success of late, the same can’t be said for good buddy and fellow captain Craig Rivet and his teammates. The Sabres have dropped three straight and won just five of 13 games in February. The loss of leading scorer Thomas Vanek to a jaw injury hasn’t helped their cause, potting just three goals in their last three games.
If life without Vanek didn’t hurt enough, they’ll also have to overcome the absence of goaltender Ryan Miller, who suffered a high ankle sprain on Feb. 21 and is sidelined indefinitely.
Wednesday’s matchup marks the Canadiens’ final visit to Buffalo this season. The division rivals have split the series so far, with each team owning a 2-1-1 record, including an overtime/shootout win per side.
Canadiens @ Thrashers – Friday, March 6 @ 7:30 PM
Five weeks ago, the Habs touched down in Atlanta and spotted the Thrashers a 3-0 lead before ultimately falling 4-2. That loss would prove to be a turning point - albeit in the wrong direction - as the club endured a downward spiral that finally hit the brakes over the last 10 days.
Though the postseason has long been an afterthought for the Thrashers, the club is still looking to make the most of what’s left of an otherwise disappointing campaign. A 6-5-1 record in February marked the first time in 2008-09 that Atlanta had closed out a month with a record above .500.
A waiver pick-up from Nashville on Jan. 10, Rich Peverley is clearly enjoying life as a Thrasher. The 26-year-old has scored 21 points in 20 games with his new team, including seven points in his last seven games.
And speaking of recent acquisitions having an impact, Mathieu Schneider will be making his return to his recent stomping ground. The veteran defenseman has proven to be just what the doctor ordered for the Habs’ once ailing power-play, notching six points in as many games since returning to Montreal.Canadiens @ Stars – Sunday, March 8 @ 6 PM
Reunions would appear to be the theme of the weekend as the Habs wrap up their road trip with their final trip out of the Eastern time zone this season. This time, they’ll re-connect with Steve Begin, who headed to Dallas on Feb. 26 in exchange for defenseman Doug Janik. The feisty forward has appeared in two games with his new team so far, registering six hits while skating with Brian Sutherby and Krys Barch.
The Stars haven’t been shining all that much over the last week and a half. Dave Tippett has seen his squad drop five in a row, lighting the lamp just once or less in four of those five outings. Their recent struggles have seen them drop out of the top eight in the Western Conference to 11th place; they are, however, just two points out of a playoff position and hold two games in hand on eighth-seed Anaheim.
Injuries have decimated the Stars’ roster over the last several months and many have been long-term casualties. Captain Brendan Morrow and blue-line stalwart Sergei Zubov have been sidelined since November with a torn ACL and hip injury, respectively, while Brad Richards suffered a fractured wrist on Feb. 17 before Toby Petersen went down with a broken foot one week later.Heather Engel is a writer for canadiens.comVote for the play of the week