Like on Wall Street, past performance in hockey does not guarantee future results. But the Buffalo Sabres hope the way they’ve played against the Montreal Canadiens this season gives them a bit of a boost heading into Tuesday night’s contest.
The Sabres are 2-0-1 against the Canadiens and close out the season series against them at 7:30 p.m. at Bell Centre. The Tops Gamenight pregame show begins at 7 p.m. on MSG-B and Bell. The game can also be heard live on WGR 550.
“It’s nice that we’ve had that success,” Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers said after the team’s morning skate. “But for us, it’s focusing on one game at a time, not looking ahead or behind, focusing on what we have to do as a group, focusing on the little things that gave us success earlier in the season. We get back to doing that more consistently, we’ll turn this ship around.”
Buffalo’s last win on the road also came against Montreal, back on Nov. 29, a 4-3 shootout win in which Brian Flynn scored the winner.
“We know that if we come out and play the way we should play, the way we’re capable of playing, we give ourselves a chance,” Sabres alternate captain Josh Gorges said. “It’s not going to be easy. Just because we’ve won against them in the past doesn’t mean we’re going to win tonight automatically. So we take it one shift at a time.”
Jhonas Enroth will start in goal for Buffalo. Sabres coach Ted Nolan said that all eight defensemen will take the ice for pregame warmups and lineup decisions will be made after that.
The team is trying to snap a 14-game losing streak, so not announcing scratches early is a way to keep each player prepared and on his toes.
“With the way things are going, you have to do things a little bit differently to keep their attention and keep their focus on,” Nolan said. “Sometimes, if somebody knows too early, it can affect somebody else. This way, it’s one of those things because of what we’re going through.”
HOT POWER PLAY
Chris Stewart has been on a good run for Buffalo, having recorded at least a point in 12 of his past 19 games. He has 14 points (6+8) during that stretch and has scored eight points (4+4) in his past 10 games. He has four goals in his past five games, all of which have come on the power play.
“I think he’s one of the more premier power forwards in the League. And it took him a little while to get his game going, but right now, he seems to be going pretty well,” Nolan said. “He’s banging some bodies, he’s skating well. He’s finishing his checks and making some plays so that’s great for us and good for him.”
That first power-play unit consisting of Stewart, Myers, Zemgus Girgensons, Tyler Ennis and either Rasmus Ristolainen or Nikita Zadorov has been responsible for Buffalo’s last five goals on the man advantage.
Overall, the Buffalo power play has scored five goals in its last 15 attempts (33.3 percent, way up from its season average of 11.4 percent).
“There has been more communication off the ice to be honest,” Myers said. “As the five-man unit to find a way to start putting pucks in the net, you can tell not only on the ice, but we’re getting on the same page. So it’s coming together.”
Gorges played 464 games over parts of eight seasons with the Canadiens from 2007-14. During that stretch, the Habs made the playoffs five times, including runs to the Eastern Conference Finals last year and in 2009-10. He served as an alternate captain before being traded to the Sabres on July 1.
He missed Buffalo’s first game at Bell Centre back on Nov. 29 due to a knee injury and although he’ll prepare for this game the same way he prepares for every game, he is looking forward to playing in Montreal again.
“There are always certain games that have a special meaning to them,” Gorges said. “Having your first game back in a building where you spent so much time, obviously there are different emotions involved for sure.
“…It’ll be good to get that first shift out of the way. Let some of the butterflies settle down a little bit. Maybe give a hit or take a hit, something like that to [say], ‘OK, we’re in a hockey game again’ – not think or worry about anything else.”
TUESDAY’S MORNING SKATE
80 Chris Stewart – 28 Zemgus Girgensons – 63 Tyler Ennis
26 Matt Moulson – 17 Torrey Mitchell – 12 Brian Gionta
19 Cody Hodgson – 65 Brian Flynn – 21 Drew Stafford
44 Nicolas Deslauriers – 37 Matt Ellis – 36 Patrick Kaleta
4 Josh Gorges – 57 Tyler Myers
51 Nikita Zadorov – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
6 Mike Weber – 24 Tyson Strachan
61 Andre Benoit – 41 Andrej Meszaros
1 Jhonas Enroth
31 Matt Hackett