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game preview

Shea Weber primed for Canadiens debut

Veteran defenseman to play first game with Montreal, Jack Eichel will miss opener for Sabres

by Joe Yerdon / Correspondent

CANADIENS (0-0-0) at SABRES (0-0-0)

7 p.m. ET; SN360, MSG-B, RDS, NHL.TV

BUFFALO - The Montreal Canadiens begin a new season with defenseman Shea Weber ready to make his debut against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center on Thursday.

The Canadiens acquired Weber from the Nashville Predators for defenseman P.K. Subban on June 29. After getting through the 2016 World Cup of Hockey and training camp, Weber is ready to get started with Montreal.

"It'll be good, we're looking forward to it," Weber said Thursday. "We're ready to get the season started. New team, obviously, [we're] just trying to accomplish the same things and try to win tonight."

Weber anchors a Canadiens defense with a mix of veterans, including Andrei Markov and Alexei Emelin, and younger players, including Mikhail Sergachev, the ninth pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, who make his NHL debut Thursday.

Weber will partner with Nathan Beaulieu on Montreal's first defense pair.

"He's a real pro … He's a big man, means business," Beaulieu, 23, said of Weber. "It's pretty special. Obviously I knew when the trade was made, someone would have to fill the void to play with him, and I wanted to be that guy. You just learn how much character [he has] and how much of a leader he is on and off the ice."

The Sabres open the season without several key players, most notably center Jack Eichel, who sustained a high ankle sprain during the closing moments of practice Wednesday. TSN reported Eichel could miss 4-6 weeks.

"Jack Eichel does have a moderate high ankle sprain," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "It's certainly more weeks than days at this point."

Buffalo also will be without right wing Kyle Okposo (bruised knee) and defenseman Dmitry Kulikov (bruised tailbone).

Goalies Robin Lehner and Al Montoya will start. Carey Price, Montreal's No. 1 goaltender, is out with the flu and did not make the trip to Buffalo. The Canadiens have not ruled out Price being ready for their game at the Ottawa Senators on Saturday.


Canadiens projected lineup

Max Pacioretty - Alex Galchenyuk - Brendan Gallagher

Artturi Lehkonen - Tomas Plekanec - Alexander Radulov

Daniel Carr - David Desharnais - Andrew Shaw

Paul Byron - Torrey Mitchell - Phillip Danault

Nathan Beaulieu - Shea Weber

Andrei Markov - Greg Pateryn

Alexei Emelin - Mikhail Sergachev

Al Montoya

Charlie Lindgren

Scratched: Sven Andrighetto, Zach Redmond

Injured: Carey Price (flu), Jeff Petry (undisclosed)


Sabres projected lineup

Evander Kane - Ryan O'Reilly - Sam Reinhart

Marcus Foligno - Johan Larsson - Tyler Ennis

Matt Moulson - Zemgus Girgensons - Hudson Fasching

Nicolas Deslauriers - Derek Grant - Brian Gionta

Josh Gorges - Rasmus Ristolainen

Jake McCabe - Zach Bogosian

Casey Nelson - Cody Franson

Robin Lehner

Anders Nilsson

Scratched: None

Injured: Kyle Okposo (knee), Jack Eichel (ankle), Dmitry Kulikov (tailbone)


Status report

Ennis will play his first game since Dec. 30, 2015. He missed the remainder of last season after sustaining a concussion against the Washington Capitals. … Defenseman Casey Nelson will take Kulikov's spot in the Sabres lineup. He had four assists in seven games last season after being signed as a free agent out of Minnesota State in the NCAA. … Charlie Lindgren will back up Montoya for the Canadiens. He was recalled from St. John's of the American Hockey League on Wednesday to take the place of Price.


Who's hot

Fourth-line center Derek Grant was the Sabres' leading scorer in the preseason, with three goals and three assists in six games. Lehner won all three of his preseason starts with a 1.33 goals-against average and .960 save percentage. … Beaulieu was the Canadiens' leading preseason scorer, with one goal and seven assists in five games. Montoya was 3-0-0 in the preseason with a 2.42 goals-against average and .900 save percentage. 

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