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Canadiens at Sabres preview

Housley to coach first game for Buffalo; Drouin ready for debut with Montreal

by Joe Yerdon / NHL.com Correspondent

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

7 p.m. ET; MSG-B, TSN-2, RDS, NHL.TV

 
The Game

The Buffalo Sabres will open the season against the Montreal Canadiens under new coach Phil Housley on Thursday, and the Hall of Fame defenseman is eager to coach his first NHL game with the Sabres, who he began his playing career with in 1982.

Housley joined the Sabres after he served as an assistant with the Nashville Predators for the past four seasons.

"The excitement that's come from our training camp, we finally get to play the first meaningful game of the season against a division opponent, it's exciting for our guys," Housley said. "I'll be a little nervous until the game gets going. I'm excited, too."

Center Jack Eichel will play his first game after he signed an eight-year, $80 million contract extension with Buffalo on Tuesday. The contract, which has an average annual value of $10 million, takes effect next season.

"Not really too much time to celebrate with a game here today," Eichel said. "More than anything I'm excited just to play a hockey game tonight. I'm just looking forward to playing in front of our home crowd. … I'm just excited to get playing hockey again."

The Canadiens open the season with a several new faces, led by center Jonathan Drouin, who will make his Montreal debut after he was acquired in a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning on June 15.

"I think the fact that he's got so much skill, he's excited a lot of players around him as well," Canadiens coach Claude Julien said. "Not just his linemates, but his teammates. He's been a breath of fresh air for our group. He's shown that he's extremely skilled with the puck and can make a lot of things happen. We're happy to have him."

Rookie defenseman Victor Mete will make his NHL debut on Montreal's first pair with Shea Weber, and rookie forward Charles Hudon will play left wing on the Canadiens second line.

 

Players to watch

Canadiens goaltender Carey Price, who finished last season with a .923 save percentage, his lowest in the past three seasons, will look to improve his 14-12-8 career record against Buffalo.

Sabres forward Evander Kane will look to continue scoring at even strength, when he scored 25 of his 28 goals last season.

 

They said it

"You see Mete, he's earned this opportunity, he's had a great camp and he's a very talented player. He's not going to be asked to do anything he's not capable of doing. He's just going to go out there, play his game, and if he does that he's going to help us." -- Canadiens right wing Brendan Gallagher

"We've had a more consistent work ethic. I think in years past it's been a little up and down. When things aren't going well, it's tough to find jump." -- Sabres center Ryan O'Reilly on the beginning of the season

 

Canadiens projected lineup

Max Pacioretty -- Jonathan Drouin -- Brendan Gallagher

Charles Hudon -- Tomas Plekanec -- Artturi Lehkonen

Alex Galchenyuk -- Philip Danault -- Andrew Shaw

Paul Byron -- Jacob De La Rose -- Ales Hemsky

Victor Mete -- Shea Weber

Karl Alzner -- Jeff Petry

Jordie Benn -- Mark Streit

Carey Price

Al Montoya

Scratched: Joe Morrow, Brandon Davidson, Torrey Mitchell

Injured: David Schlemko (hand)

 

Sabres projected lineup

Evander Kane -- Jack Eichel -- Jason Pominville

Benoit Pouliot -- Ryan O'Reilly -- Kyle Okposo

Zemgus Girgensons -- Sam Reinhart -- Seth Griffith

Johan Larsson -- Jacob Josefson -- Jordan Nolan

Nathan Beaulieu -- Rasmus Ristolainen

Jake McCabe -- Victor Antipin

Marco Scandella -- Matt Tennyson

Robin Lehner

Chad Johnson

Scratched: Matt Moulson, Josh Gorges

Injured: Justin Falk (undisclosed), Zach Bogosian (lower body)

 

Status report

The Sabres named O'Reilly, Bogosian, Okposo, and Eichel as alternate captains for the season. … Bogosian is day-to-day. … Schlemko practiced with the Canadiens for the first time since he bruised his hand on the first day of training camp.

 

Stat pack

The Sabres have lost four straight season-opening games and four straight home openers. The Canadiens have won three straight season openers.

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