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Canadiens-Sabres Preview

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GAME: Montreal Canadiens (41-28-9) at Buffalo Sabres (48-24-6).

TIME: Wednesday, 7 p.m. EDT.

The surging Montreal Canadiens look to close in on their second straight playoff berth as they visit the Buffalo Sabres.

The Canadiens are in seventh place in the Eastern Conference and have not made consecutive trips to the playoffs since 1996-98.

Montreal defeated the Ottawa Senators 3-2 on Monday, its ninth win in the last 10 games. Richard Zednik scored for the first time in more than a month midway through the third period for the game-winning goal.

Zednik, who had been a healthy scratch the prior three games, has scored just 15 goals after leading the Canadiens the prior two seasons.

"I think what we saw from Richard Zednik tonight tells you a lot about his character," said Bob Gainey, Montreal's coach and general manager. "He proved to his teammates here tonight that he wants to contribute. He scored a goal, an important goal and played the way we all know he is capable of."

Chris Higgins scored for the fourth straight game, and the rookie center has nine goals in his last eight games.

Alexei Kovalev has five assists in his last three games, and has netted five goals in a three-game goal-scoring streak against Buffalo.

Goaltender David Aebischer made 35 saves against the Senators and has 79 in his last two games. Starting netminder Cristobal Huet has two shutouts in his last five starts and is 1-0-1 against the Sabres this season.

Montreal has won four of its last five road games, but has lost eight of its last 10 at Buffalo.

The Sabres defeated the Ottawa Senators 6-2 on Saturday, and have won three of their last four games.

Buffalo, which already clinched its first playoff berth since 2001, is in fourth place in the East. Goalie Ryan Miller made 32 saves Saturday, and is 2-0-1 lifetime against the Canadiens with a 1.95 goals-against average.

"I liked the way he played the game," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "He really had a sound game. I'm getting happy with where the team's at right now."

Tim Connolly scored two goals and had an assist on Saturday, and has two goals and four assists in his last three games against Montreal.

Maxim Afinogenov has a four-game point streak with two goals and seven assists in those games, and his 21 goals this season ties his career high set in 2001-02.

The Sabres and Canadiens conclude their season series Saturday at Montreal.

STANDINGS: Canadiens - 91 points, 3rd place, 19 PB, Northeast Division. Sabres - 102 points, 2nd place, 8 PB, Northeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Canadiens - Michael Ryder, 29 goals; Saku Koivu, 43 assists; Kovalev, 61 points; Mike Komisarek, 114 PIM. Sabres - Chris Drury, 26 goals; Afinogenov, 46 assists and 67 points; Andrew Peters, 84 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Canadiens - Power play: 19.6 percent (87 for 444), 5th in NHL. Penalty killing: 80.9 percent (377 for 466), 22nd. Sabres - Power play: 20.9 percent (96 for 459), 4th. Penalty killing: 86.1 percent (358 for 416), 2nd.

GOALTENDERS: Canadiens - Huet (18-9-4, 7 SO, 2.12 GAA); Aebischer (28-16-2, 3, 3.09). Sabres - Miller (27-14-3, 0, 2.71); Martin Biron (20-8-3, 0, 2.98).

SEASON SERIES: Sabres, 3-2-1.

LAST MEETING: Feb. 9; Canadiens 3-2 (OT). At Buffalo, N.Y., Kovalev scored 39 seconds into overtime snapping the Sabres' six-game win streak.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Canadiens - 17-17-5 on the road; Sabres - 25-11-3 at home.

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