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Sabres try to creep closer in East, face Canadiens

by Arpon Basu

SABRES (12-15-4) at CANADIENS (20-5-5)

TV: RDS, CBC, MSG-Buffalo

Last 10: Buffalo 4-3-3; Montreal 7-1-2

Season series: This is the fourth of five meetings this season between the Northeast Division rivals, and the second in four days between the clubs in Montreal. The Sabres beat the Canadiens 3-2 in overtime on Tuesday at Bell Centre, their second win in three games against Montreal this season.

Big story: The Sabres have won two straight games against some difficult opposition in division rivals Montreal and Toronto. Making it three in a row could be a sign Buffalo is coming out of its season-long funk as it creeps closer toward eighth place in the East.

Team Scope:

Buffalo: The Sabres should be welcoming back top scorer Thomas Vanek, who was hurt when he took a Christian Ehrhoff slap shot off the hip in Montreal on Tuesday, forcing him to miss Thursday's 5-4 shootout win at home against Toronto.

"I got hit on the bone, and it just kind of froze me for two days," Vanek told The Buffalo News after practice on Friday. "I couldn't move, couldn't do anything. Late last night it felt a little better, and this morning I woke up and had most of my motion back. I felt pretty good skating."

Buffalo has moved to within four points of eighth place in the Eastern Conference, but Vanek feels the Sabres are still too far away to worry about that.

"We don't have to kid ourselves," he said. "Four points doesn't sound like much, but it's a lot because teams are playing each other and gaining points in front of you. Most guys realize how hard it is to catch up. All we can worry about is [Saturday] to get another two points and just get lucky."

Canadiens: P.K. Subban has taken his game to another level this season, leading the NHL in goals by a defenseman with nine, but his relationship with coach Michel Therrien has been an ongoing storyline throughout the season.

After Montreal's overtime loss to the Sabres, Therrien expressed his displeasure with Subban's penalty in overtime that led to Steve Ott's winning goal. And in Thursday night's 5-2 win against the Islanders, Subban sat for nearly half the second period after he jumped on early for a too many men on the ice penalty.

Therrien says he is simply trying to teach Subban how to be a responsible player, something Subban himself said he appreciates.

"When you aren't on the same wavelength with a player, that's when you start scratching your head," Therrien told reporters Friday. "But in P.K.'s case -- and that's what I like about him -- we have the same goals. That's why it's encouraging."

Who's hot: For the Sabres, Ott has two goals and an assist in his last two games, center Cody Hodgson has two goals and two assists in his last three games and defenseman Christian Ehrhoff had a goal and two assists against Toronto on Thursday. … For the Canadiens, center Tomas Plekanec has four goals and five assists in his last nine games, while Subban has six goals and seven assists in 10 games this month.

Injury report: The Sabres are without defenseman Alexander Sulzer (knee), expected to be out the rest of the season. …The Canadiens are missing defenseman Raphael Diaz (concussion), defenseman Yannick Weber (knee), left wing Rene Bourque (concussion), center Ryan White (lower body) and left wing Brandon Prust (shoulder).

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