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Sabres seek to establish consistency in Montreal

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber / Sabres.com

MONTREAL - For all of the relief that existed in the dressing room of the Buffalo Sabres following their 3-1 win over Edmonton on Friday, the consensus among players was that it wouldn't mean much if they didn't come out and show they can replicate their performance. 

Their next test will be on the road against Carey Price and a Montreal Canadiens team going through a rough patch of its own on Saturday night. 

"It's huge, but it means nothing unless we come out and prove it again tonight," Sabres defenseman Marco Scandella said of the win on Friday. "It was a big step for our team, but we can't just say that it was good enough. It's a back-to-back, we're in Montreal now, we have to compete and find a way to win."

 Video: HOUSLEY: Pregame Interview at MTL

Robin Lehner will start in net for the Sabres after stopping 29 of 30 shots and taking a shutout into the final minute on Friday. Coach Phil Housley announced two lineup changes, with Seth Griffith and Josh Gorges stepping in for Kyle Criscuolo and Justin Falk, respectively. 

Gorges made his presence felt when the Sabres visited the Canadiens two weeks ago, a 2-1 overtime loss. He tallied three hits in 15:56 in that game, sparking the team with an open-ice hit on former teammate Brendan Gallagher and a subsequent fight with defenseman Jordie Benn.

"I just thought he brought a physical element," Housley said. "You could see it the last time we were in here. He came down, pinched hard, was physical in the battle and he stepped up and really gave our team a boost."

Battling in front of the net will be of increased importance against Price, who will return to the net for Montreal for the first time since Nov. 2. The former Vezina Trophy winner has missed the last 10 games with a lower-body injury.

"First of all we've got to continue to deliver pucks to the net and that will make our forwards go there, but we've done a better job of it," Housley said. "We know Price is a top-class, world-class goaltender so we're going to have to try and make it difficult on him."

Montreal will be without defenseman Shea Weber, who will miss his third straight game with a lower-body injury. Buffalo, meanwhile, will hope to continue to reap the benefits of having their top defenseman back in Ristolainen.

Against Edmonton, Ristolainen skated 27:32, including 4:26 on the power play and 4:11 on the penalty kill, and tallied two assists, five shots and six blocks while working with Scandella to hold Oilers star Connor McDavid to three shot attempts and no points. 

"I thought he was really moving his feet well and he had a style to his game," Housley said. "I think we need to have more of that from all of our guys, playing with more emotion. You could see how effective Rasmus was last night."

The Canadiens, winless in their last five games, have seen their top forwards struggle to generate offense as of late. Alex Galchenyuk and Jonathan Drouin have gone 11 and seven games without scoring a goal, respectively, while captain Max Pacioretty hasn't found the back of the net since his overtime goal against the Sabres on Nov. 11.  

The Montreal lineup will feature a familiar face in forward Nicolas Deslauriers, who is scoreless through four games with his hometown team. The Sabres traded Deslauriers for defenseman Zach Redmond prior to the start of the regular season.

Coverage on Saturday begins at 6:30 p.m. with GMC Gamenight on MSG-B. You can also listen live on WGR 550, with puck drop scheduled for just after 7.

 

Projected lineup

9 Evander Kane - 15 Jack Eichel - 29 Jason Pominville
67 Benoit Pouliot - 90 Ryan O'Reilly - 23 Sam Reinhart
17 Jordan Nolan - 10 Jacob Josefson - 21 Kyle Okposo
28 Zemgus Girgensons - 22 Johan Larsson - 25 Seth Griffith

6 Marco Scandella - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
19 Jake McCabe - 93 Victor Antipin
82 Nathan Beaulieu - 4 Josh Gorges

40 Robin Lehner

31 Chad Johnson

 

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