SABRES (3-3-1) at CANADIENS (4-2-0)
TV: CBC, RDS, MSG-Buffalo
Season series: This is the first of five meetings between the Northeast Division rivals. The Sabres won five of the six games they played against the Canadiens last season.
Big story: Will P.K. Subban make his season debut on defense for the Canadiens? It looked that way at practice Friday, but coach Michel Therrien would not commit to inserting the flashy defenseman in his lineup. The Canadiens could use his help to slow down Thomas Vanek, named the third star for January after compiling an NHL-leading 15 points in six games.
Sabres: Buffalo is coming off a big 7-4 win in Boston on Thursday, a game in which Vanek notched his second five-point game of the season with a hat trick and two assists.
His line with Cody Hodgson at center and Jason Pominville on the opposite wing has combined for 33 points, or better than five per game.
"Pucks are going in right now for me, and with Pominville, I've always had good chemistry, and Cody fits right in," Vanek said after the game in Boston. "Again, there's going to be stretches where nothing goes, so you like it right now, but eventually it's going to hit the other way. So you just leave the game here today, and it's a new day tomorrow."
As well as that line is playing, the Sabres snapped a four-game losing streak with their win in Boston, and they've allowed 20 goals in their last five games.
Canadiens: Montreal suffered its first blowout loss of the season on Wednesday, losing 5-1 in Ottawa to the Senators, but the imminent return of Subban could make a big difference for a club that has opened the season with four wins in its opening six games.
Subban would give the Canadiens defense incredible depth, allowing Therrien to have one of him, Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges on the ice at all times.
Therrien is well aware of how dangerous a team the Sabres can be, particularly after their effort in Boston.
"They're a good team," Therrien said Friday. "You always have to be aware of when guys like Thomas Vanek's on the ice. He had a great game yesterday, and [Ryan] Miller seems to always play well against Montreal."
Who's hot: Aside from Vanek, Pominville has 12 points this season and Hodgson has four goals in six games for the Sabres. … Markov has points in each of his last five games, all eight of his points this season coming on the power play. Canadiens goaltender Carey Price has a 1.98 goals-against average and a save percentage of .924 in five games this season.
Injury report: The Sabres are missing defenseman Robyn Regehr and forwards Patrick Kaleta, Cody McCormick and Ville Leino. Regehr is listed as day to day after missing the last two games. … The Canadiens are without top line left wing Max Pacioretty (appendicitis), though he took part in Friday's practice and looks close to a return. Center Petteri Nokelainen (back) remains on injured reserve.