The Canadiens are in Buffalo Wednesday night to face the Sabres, a team they have not beaten this season. They are 4-0-1 against Buffalo and have not beaten them in over a year, back to Feb. 17, 2011. Most recently, they lost to the Sabres in overtime last week at the end of their western road trip.
The Sabres are perhaps the only Eastern team currently not in the top eight that still has a realistic shot at the playoffs. They are two points behind Washington. The Jets, who were pummeled by the Penguins on Tuesday and have a road-heavy schedule in front of them, are two points behind the Sabres.
Ryan Miller should be in goal as he’s been for every Sabres game except one for the last two months. He started 25 of the 27 games, came in for Jhonas Enroth midway through one of the other two and has had only one game off since Jan. 19, and that was two weeks ago against the Bruins. He’s given up two goals or less in 14 of those 26 outings and has four shutouts with a very good 15-5-5 record. He’s been the key to the Sabres late push for a playoff spot.
Buffalo will get their big offensive defenceman Tyler Myers back for the game after completing his three-game suspension for boarding Scott Gomez in that game a week ago Monday, resulting in Gomez’s concussion. Myers was not tossed from the game, but got only a minor penalty and eventually scored the game-winner.
He told reporters Tuesday he wasn’t overly concerned that the Canadiens would try to avenge the hit. “I’m going to approach it like any other game. It’s in the past,” he said. “I didn’t mean to hurt him. It’s not my intention to go in and kill a guy like that. Whatever happens, happens. I’m just going to focus on two points.”
The Sabres got four of a possible six points with Myers out of the lineup, a win and two regulation ties that ended in defeat. Obviously, they need points and after the game against the Habs, Buffalo must play the Rangers, Penguins, Flyers and Bruins. The Canadiens, meanwhile, haven’t lost in regulation in two weeks, going 3-0-3 in their last six.
The line the Habs may have to watch closely isn’t Buffalo’s top threesome of Corey Tropp, Derek Roy, and Jason Pominville, but Tyler Ennis centering rookie Marcus Foligno and Drew Stafford. Foligno, recently called up from Rochester after playing one game earlier this season, has five goals and two assists in five games since his most recent promotion and the line has 11 goals, 25 points and combined plus-22 rating in that span.
“It’s fun to watch them,” Ruff said. “They make a lot of good plays, show real good creativity in the offensive zone. They really like playing with each other and every time you put them out there, you feel like they have a chance to score.”
The 20-year-old Foligno, who played a key role for Team Canada in the World Junior Tournament, is the brother of Senators Nick Foligno and son of Mike, an NHLer mostly for the Sabres and Red Wings from 1980 until 1994. Besides Marcus, the only other active players who had five goals in their first six NHL games were Penguin Evgeni Malkin (7) and then-Jet Teemu Selanne (5).
The team’s other celebrated rookie forward, Cody Hodgson, who was plucked from Vancouver at the trade deadline, had a pair of assists — his first two points in the 10 games since the deal — in Buffalo’s 7-3 win over Tampa Bay on Monday. It was the most goals the Sabres had scored in a game this season.
Here’s how the Sabres could line up on Wednesday.
Corey Tropp, Derek Roy, Jason Pominville
Marcus Foligno, Tyler Ennis, Drew Stafford
Ville Leino, Cody Hodgson, Thomas Vanek
Cody McCormick, Brad Boyes, Patrick Kaleta
Jordan Leopold, Tyler Myers
Robyn Regehr, Andrej Sekera
Christian Ehrhoff, Alexander Sulzer