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Canadiens' Eller game-time decision vs. Sabres

Montreal goes for second straight victory after winless road trip

by Sean Farrell / Correspondent

SABRES (27-32-9) at CANADIENS (31-30-6)

TV: 7:30 p.m. ET; RDS, SN, SN360, MSG-B, NHL.TV

MONTREAL -- Montreal Canadiens forward Lars Eller will be a game-time decision to face the Buffalo Sabres at Bell Centre on Thursday.

Eller missed Montreal's 4-3 overtime win against the Dallas Stars on Tuesday because of an upper-body injury that he sustained during the Canadiens' 0-3-1 road trip that ended Saturday.

Eller, who says his injury is "mid-body," did not practice Monday, but took part in the optional morning skate Tuesday. He practiced Wednesday, wearing a no-contact jersey, and took part in the optional morning skate at Montreal's suburban practice facility Thursday.

Though he was originally said to be not in the lineup by a Canadiens official, Eller had a different take in the dressing room.

"For me it's been one practice at a time, one skate at a time to see how I feel, and I feel good enough now to be a possibility tonight," Eller said.

Eller said it will not be a matter of him needing to convince Montreal coach Michel Therrien that he is ready to play.

"There's no gray zone right now," Eller said. "If I feel good enough to play, they'll know."

Canadiens center Alex Galchenyuk will play his third straight game as Montreal's top center on a line with left wing Max Pacioretty and right wing Sven Andrighetto.

Galchenyuk has scored nine goals and 10 points in his past seven games, including four goals and one assist in two games with Pacioretty.

"We had a couple of good games but there's still work to be done and we're just trying to focus on the game coming up and trying to do the same thing we did," Galchenyuk said.

Buffalo has won two of three games against Montreal, which has outscored the Sabres 13-12.

"They've got a pretty young lineup, and a skilled young lineup, and they move the puck well," Galchenyuk said. "It's going to be a tough game but we're ready to play. We worked on some things the last couple of games."

Canadiens rookie Michael McCarron is looking forward to facing off against Buffalo center Jack Eichel.

"I played with him at the U.S. program (for the U-18 team in 2012-13), so I'm excited to see him," said McCarron, who has one assist in eight games. "I haven't seen him in a while so it'll be different to play against him but I've just got to try and keep him at bay."

Eichel, who was selected No. 2 by Buffalo in the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft, is looking forward to his second NHL game in Montreal. He had one of his two assists in three games against the Canadiens in the Sabres' 4-2 win in Montreal on Feb. 3.

"There's a lot of history in this city," said Eichel, who played for the United States at Bell Centre during the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship. "As a hockey franchise, it's the winningest franchise in the NHL. Thinking about some of the players that have played here in Montreal, for me growing up I used to watch the Canadiens pretty closely just because of their tradition. I was a fan of that, and they had a lot of good players. I don't try to act differently going into any other city, but it's going to be a great crowd tonight. It should be hostile environment and we're looking forward to that."

Here are the projected lineups:

Evander Kane - Jack Eichel - Sam Reinhart
Marcus Foligno - Johan Larsson - Brian Gionta
Zemgus Girgensons - Cal O'Reilly - Nicolas Deslauriers
Daniel Catenacci - David Legwand - Matt Moulson

Josh Gorges - Rasmus Ristolainen
Jake McCabe - Zach Bogosian
Carlo Colaiacovo - Mark Pysyk

Robin Lehner
Chad Johnson

Injured: Cody Franson (neck), Tyler Ennis (upper body), Ryan O'Reilly (lower body), Cody McCormick (blood clot)
Scratched: None

Max Pacioretty - Alex Galchenyuk - Sven Andrighetto
Stefan Matteau - Tomas Plekanec - Paul Byron
Jacob De La Rose - Michael McCarron - Torrey Mitchell
Lucas Lessio - Phillip Danault - Mike Brown

Andrei Markov - P.K. Subban
Alexei Emelin - Greg Pateryn
Victor Bartley - Mark Barberio

Mike Condon
Ben Scrivens

Injured: Lars Eller (upper body), Nathan Beaulieu (lower body), Carey Price (lower body), David Desharnais (broken left foot), Brendan Gallagher (lower body), Daniel Carr (knee), Jeff Petry (abdomen), Brian Flynn (lower body), Tom Gilbert (left knee)
Scratched: None

Status report: Buffalo coach Dan Bylsma will dress the same lineup he used Tuesday. … Lessio will likely not play if Eller does. Price worked out with goalie coach Stephane Waite after practice.

Who's hot: Eichel has three goals and two assists during a four-game point streak. Kane has two goals and four points in his past four games. Larsson has scored three goals in his past four games. Reinhart has a goal and three assists during a three-game point streak. … Galchenyuk had his second straight two-goal game Tuesday. He has four in his past seven games, and six this season. Pacioretty has a goal and three assists in his past two games. Markov has 13 points (one goal, 12 assists) in his past 12 games.

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