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Canadiens-Sabres Preview @NHL
Canadiens-Sabres Preview

GAME: Montreal Canadiens (14-5-3) at Buffalo Sabres (12-9-1).

TIME: Friday, 8 p.m. EST.

Martin Biron has been a No. 1 goaltender for most of his career, but has spent most of this season as a backup. With their goaltending depth being challenged, the Buffalo Sabres will again look to Biron as their starter.

Biron is expected to make his second consecutive start as the surging Buffalo Sabres look to beat the Montreal Canadiens for the first time in three meetings this season.

Biron had served as Ryan Miller's backup for the first month of the season, but Miller has been sidelined since Nov. 3 with a fractured thumb and is expected to miss at least another two weeks. Biron had been splitting time with Mika Noronen, but Noronen sustained a groin injury in Tuesday's 4-3 shootout loss to the New York Rangers, forcing Buffalo to recall goalie Michael Leighton from the minors.

Biron performed well on Wednesday as the Sabres rallied for a 4-3 victory over the New York Islanders. He made 23 saves in regulation and overtime and denied the only two shooters he faced in the shootout.

"Shootouts are tough when you've got guys with skills like that coming in," Biron said. "It was as good as we've played on the road in the third period and overtime."

Ales Kotalik scored the tying goal with 2:49 left in regulation and scored one of his team's two goals in the shootout as the Sabres improved to 5-1-1 in their past seven games.

Not only did Buffalo rally late to continue its hot streak, it did it without leading scorer Daniel Briere and fourth-leading scorer J.P. Dumont. Briere was a late scratch because of a nagging abdominal injury and Dumont was placed on injured reserve, also because of an abdominal problem.

"We weathered the storm," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "Our team played a strong game."

Kotalik and Chris Drury have played well lately for the Sabres. Kotalik has three goals in his last four games while Drury has three goals and three assists in his past five contests.

The Canadiens also are coming off a shootout victory, 3-2 over visiting Atlanta on Tuesday.

Jose Theodore stopped Ilya Kovalchuk, Peter Bondra and Marian Hossa in succession and Pierre Dagenais scored in the shootout for Montreal, which has only two wins in six games, but at least one point in four of those contests (2-2-2).

"This was clearly Jose's best game of the season so far," Montreal coach Claude Julien said. "He was sharp, confident and square to the puck all night long."

The Canadiens swept back-to-back games against the Sabres earlier this season and have won five of seven against Buffalo. Friday's game is the first of a three-game road trip for Montreal, which is 6-1-2 away from home.

STANDINGS (through Nov. 24): Canadiens - 31 points, 2nd place, 1 PB, Northeast Division. Sabres - 25 points, 4th place, 7 PB, Northeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Canadiens - Michael Ryder, 10 goals; Saku Koivu, 17 assists and 25 points; Steve Begin, 47 PIM. Sabres - Briere, 12 goals and 20 points; Teppo Numminen, 15 assists; Paul Gaustad, 20 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Nov. 24): Canadiens - Power play: 19.4 percent (28 for 144), 10th in NHL. Penalty killing: 82.5 percent (123 for 149), 15th. Sabres - Power play: 21.6 percent (29 for 134), 5th. Penalty killing: 81.9 percent (86 for 105), 16th.

GOALTENDERS: Canadiens - Theodore (11-4-3, 0 SO, 2.92 GAA); Yann Danis (3-1-0, 1, 2.60). Sabres - Biron (5-4-1, 3.89); Leighton (no appearances).

SEASON SERIES: Canadiens, 2-0.

LAST MEETING: Nov. 5; Canadiens, 3-2. At Montreal, Theodore made 29 saves and Alex Kovalev scored twice for the Habs.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Canadiens - 6-1-2 on the road; Sabres - 7-4-1 at home.

Associated Press
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