First goals are always important and the Montreal Canadiens have been susceptible to giving up early ones so far this season.
The opposition has scored the first goal in 11 of Montreal’s 13 games. The Canadiens are 6-4-1 in those games and 2-0-0 when they score first. The Buffalo Sabres as 3-0-1 when scoring first and will look to get an early jump on the Habs on Wednesday.
“We’re susceptible to not getting the first goal so we’ll see what happens,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said after the team’s optional morning skate. “One of the things we want to do is try to get out to a quick start and we’ll go from there.”
Montreal is tied with Tampa Bay for the lead in the Atlantic Division with 17 points, but the Habs have three points in their past five games and lost 5-0 at home on Tuesday against Chicago.
Buffalo is 2-2-1 in their past five and is coming off a 3-2 shootout victory over Detroit on Sunday. Wednesday’s game is the second of a four-game homestand.
Going for back-to-back wins for the first time this year, the Sabres are set to take on their divisional rival at 7:30 p.m. at First Niagara Center. The Tops Gamenight pregame show begins at 7 p.m. on MSG-B. The game can be seen on Sportsnet in Canada and heard live on WGR 550.
“We’re looking for the second in a row. It would be nice to get that,” Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons said. “We’re definitely going to give the best we have tonight. Of course, it’s an advantage maybe that they’re having some rough times right now.
The Sabres will go with the same lineup as they did against the Red Wings. At forward, it’s out of necessity as Marcus Foligno will miss another game with an injury. Johan Larsson will again take his place in the lineup.
On defense, Nolan will stick with what worked and play the same six defensemen. That means Nikita Zadorov and Andrej Meszaros are in while Mike Weber and Andre Benoit will once again be healthy scratches.
Buffalo’s Michal Neuvirth will start in goal against Dustin Tokarski.
17 Torrey Mitchell – 63 Tyler Ennis – 80 Chris Stewart
26 Matt Moulson – 28 Zemgus Girgensons – 12 Brian Gionta
22 Johan Larsson – 19 Cody Hodgson – 21 Drew Stafford
44 Nicolas Deslauriers – 8 Cody McCormick – 65 Brian Flynn
4 Josh Gorges – 57 Tyler Myers
41 Andrej Meszaros – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
51 Nikita Zadorov – 24 Tyson Strachan
34 Michal Neuvirth
1 Jhonas Enroth
Healthy Scratches: 6 Mike Weber, 61 Andre Benoit
Injured: 82 Marcus Foligno
Injured Reserve: 31 Matt Hackett, 36 Patrick Kaleta
EATERS OF MINUTES
Four Sabres defensemen topped 25 minutes of ice time Sunday against Detroit. Rasmus Ristolainen logged a career-high 25:30 and his partner, Meszaros, skated a game-high 25:46. The pairing of Tyler Myers (25:41) and Josh Gorges (25:15) also saw a lot of ice.
Nolan was asked if those players might have trouble sustaining a high-level of play when on the ice so much. He didn’t seem concerned and had confidence that they would be able to handle that type of workload again.
“Twenty, 24 minutes of work a day is not too hard, I don’t think,” he said. “It’s 24 minutes out of a 24-hour day so we have lots of time to rest and rejuvenate and refocus. If we do it again, there’s enough space between the rest.”
Meszaros had been a healthy scratch in the two games previous but came back in Sunday and played well enough in the eyes of the coaching staff to stay in the lineup for Wednesday’s game.
“You just have to be focused and bring your best every night – not just in games but in practice too,” he said. “Practice obviously makes you better so that’s what we’re trying to do here. We’re going over a lot of stuff and everybody’s on the same system now so it’s all about execution now.”