After two stirring overtime road wins, the Canadiens return home for a divisional game against the Sabres, who may be stirred up themselves. The Habs trail Buffalo by four points.
It will be the teams’ second meeting of the season, after Buffalo defeated Montreal 3-1 on Oct. 18. That game marked the Habs’ third home loss in a row to start the season, the first time that had ever happened.
The Habs outplayed the Sabres who were saved by Ryan Miller (pictured). Miller stopped 40 shots. Montreal led early in the second period. Buffalo tied it midway through and got the eventual game winner with three seconds left in the middle period on a faceoff play following Josh Gorges’ uncharacteristic icing with six seconds to go in the period. The Sabres added an empty netter with half a minute remaining in the third.
Tonight, the Sabres come into the Bell Centre off a dispiriting 6-2 loss Saturday to the Bruins, which ended a four-game winning streak. But most noteworthy was Milan Lucic running Miller and the Sabres really not responding to their goalie being attacked.
If somehow you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the link to the video.
Lucic received only a minor penalty. Miller stayed in the game, but felt increasingly worse and did not play in the third period. The Bruins dominated the game afterward, scoring six consecutive goals, including the go-ahead goal and a third one just 14 seconds apart in the middle period.
Miller had some particularly harsh words for Lucic afterward, and here’s the video of that. Lucic said, “You know, we wouldn’t accept anything like that. We would have [taken] care of business. But we’re a different team than they are.” Here’s the full video of his post-game remarks.
On Sunday evening, the Sabres disclosed Miller is out with a concussion. Lucic has a disciplinary hearing Monday afternoon with the NHL on the incident.
The Sabres did not skate on Sunday but coach Lindy Ruff — clearly displeased by his team’s not sticking up for Miller — had a meeting with his players. Here’s how Mike Harrington, blogging for the Buffalo News, described the scene: “There were understandably a lot of stern faces and Lindy Ruff was not pleased one iota. Told by team spokesman Mike Gilbert that reporters were waiting to speak to him, Ruff curtly responded, “[Bleep] the media” and stormed out of the building. Ruff is often touchy around reporters from Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa but on this day there were just four Buffalo people waiting (myself, Paul Hamilton from WGR, and Kevin Snow and Scott Miner from Sabres.com) and no one from Montreal. It will be a wee bit different tomorrow morning.”
Some Sabres players who spoke with the media — notably Paul Gausted, who was on the ice when Lucic ran Miller — expressed a good deal of remorse for their placid response.
“I hoped I could have done more there,” Gaustad said. “It was something where I thought it was an illegal hit and today it’s one of those things you take a look at how guys respond and how I responded and I can only look at myself and look myself in the mirror. I wasn’t good enough as a player last night to help the team win.”
Ruff was angered and let his team know it, so you can expect the Sabres will play Monday’s game with a good deal of emotion. Gausted will likely be playing guilty and opposition teams always have to watch out for Patrick Kaleta, who is coming off a suspension for head butting.
Miller won’t be in the lineup. He hasn’t played particularly well in any event and his backup, Jhonas Enroth, is unbeaten in five decisions. His .944 save percentage and 1.75 GAA both rank fifth among NHL goalies. He’s allowed only 11 goals in seven appearances. At 5-foot-10, Enroth is small by current goaltending standards, but very quick and agile.
Drew MacIntyre has been summoned from Rochester to be Enroth’s backup.
Tomas Vanek, playing the best hockey of his career, leads the Sabres with 11 goals, tied for second in the league. His five power play goals are tied for the league’s best total. Jason Pominville has collected 14 assists as Vanek’s linemate. Their line with Luke Adams between them should get a lot of attention, although the second line with Derek Roy between Ville Leino and Drew Stafford are no slouches. Leino has underperformed so far, but Roy — coming off a serious injury — has played well.
Buffalo’s effort to rebuild their defence corps looks to be paying off. They have allowed only 40 goals in their 17 games, third best in the East. But big, young Tyler Myers is struggling defensively. He didn’t play well against the Bruins and is minus-7 in his last three games.
The Sabres power play is clicking at a 19 percent rate (12 for 63), 10th in the league. Their penalty kill is one of the best in the league, they’ve killed off 91.2 percent, allowing only five goals in 57 chances. Gausted is an excellent penalty killer and very strong on faceoffs as is Roy. Pominville and Kaleta also see lots of time on the PK.
Here’s how the Sabres could line up tonight:
Thomas Vanek, Luke Adam, Jason Pominville
Ville Leino, Derek Roy, Drew Stafford
Nathan Gerbe, Paul Gaustad, Brad Boyes
Cody McCormick, Matt Ellis, Patrick Kaleta
Andrej Sekera, Tyler Myers
Robyn Regehr, Jordan Leopold
Marc-Andre Gragnani, Christian Ehrhoff