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Montr?al Canadiens vs. Buffalo Sabres

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GAME: Montreal Canadiens (24-18-6-2) at Buffalo Sabres (20-25-5-1).

TIME: Tuesday, 7 p.m. EST.

The Montreal Canadiens saw where they stacked up against a few of the NHL's top teams. Now they'll try to take advantage of some of the worst.

Coming off back-to-back losses, the Canadiens open an easy part of the schedule in hopes of resuming their climb in the Eastern Conference playoff race as they face the Buffalo Sabres.

Montreal had been middling around .500 for much of the season before a stretch which saw it lose only once in 11 games, capped by last Tuesday's 4-1 victory at Philadelphia.

Following that win over the Atlantic Division leader, however, the Canadiens lost 2-0 on Friday to defending Stanley Cup champion New Jersey. The next night, they fell 4-1 to Northeast Division-leading Toronto.

``What we want to do is simply play the way we had been playing for the past month,'' said goalie Jose Theodore, who allowed more than two goals for just the second time in his last 14 starts.

``We weren't playing before like we played on Friday and tonight, and that's the style we need to get back to. New Jersey and Toronto are two strong teams, and we can't allow ourselves to deliver a half-effort against them or anyone else.''

The Canadiens look to bounce back against the only club below them in the Northeast Division. Buffalo is 10 points behind Montreal, which stands seventh in the East _ two back of Boston for sixth.

The Bruins are the only opponent among Montreal's next five with a record above .500. The Canadiens visit Minnesota on Thursday before hosting Boston on Saturday, then face the worst teams in their respective conferences _ Chicago and Pittsburgh.

Montreal will be without forward Pierre Dagenais for the next two games after he was suspended without pay by the NHL on Monday for hitting Toronto's Bryan Marchment in the face with his stick.

The Sabres are coming off a 2-3 road trip, but ended it on a good note. They sandwiched wins over Boston and Carolina around a 2-1 loss to the Flyers.

Buffalo had been 1-12-1 when trailing after the first period and was down 1-0 after one on Sunday, but rallied to beat the Hurricanes 4-2 behind 37 saves from Martin Biron and two goals from Jochen Hecht.

``It doesn't happen very often,'' Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. ``It would've been an easy game to go the other way, but we came back.''

Biron is 5-2-2 with a 2.08 goals-against average in his last nine games, while Mika Noronen has allowed 11 goals in losing his last four starts.

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