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Sabres at Habs: Five Things to Know

MONTREAL -- The Sabres have not seen the Montreal Canadiens since opening night back in October and tonight's 7 p.m. game on MSG marks their first trip to the Bell Centre this season. The Sabres are 0-2-1 in their last three games against the Habs, including a 4-1 loss on Oct. 13, but have managed to go 8-8-2 against them since the start of the 2013 lockout season. That includes a 5-4 record here.

Here are Five Things to Know about tonight's game:

McCabe Update: Coach Dan Bylsma said there's no concrete update yet on defenseman Jake McCabe, who suffered a shoulder update in the first minute of Friday's win over Montreal. Casey Nelson has been called up from Rochester to replace McCabe.

Minutes-crunching Risto: Rasmus Ristolainen's ice-time figure of 35:24 Friday night was the most by any NHL player in nearly 14 months -- and Elias Sports says it's the most by any Sabre since the NHL began officially tracking ice time in 1999. A smiling Bylsma, when asked what he sees if need be for Ristolainen's minutes tonight? "Thirty-five more."

Turning serious, Bylsma said he certainly expects Ristolainen to hit 30 again and that's fine for the Sabres star. Ristolainen played all 4:34 of overtime Friday, helping the Buffalo penalty killers survive a 4-on-3 situation.

"I felt pretty good," Ristolainen said. "On the PK, you don't need to move too much there. You just hold your position so it's not too bad. It's what you work out for in the summer time, so I'm ready for that.

The Buffalo pairs: Byslma said he will open with Justin Falk and Ristolainen on the top pair, Zach Bogosian with Cody Franson on the second duo and Nelson with Taylor Fedun on the third. But the coach said to expect a lot of flip-flops during the game.

In the Nets: Backups Anders Nilsson and Al Montoya both played Friday night and got wins for their teams. It's back to the starters tonight as Robin Lehner (10-12-5, 2.54/.920) meets Carey Price (21-9-4, 2.35/.920). And you read those numbers right: The much-maligned Lehner has the same save percentage for the season as Price, who has struggled mightily this month.

Price is 3-4 in January with a sickly 3.40 goals-against average and an .881 save percentage. In his last five games, Price is just 1-4/4.01/.859 -- allowing at least four goals four times and enduring a 7-1 blowout at Minnesota.

Kane has been able: Since scoring his first goal of the season Dec. 3 against Boston, Sabres forward Evander Kane is tied for the league lead in even-strength goals (11) and has not gone three straight without scoring.

Habs update: Montreal is 16-5-2 at home this season -- but only 2-4-1 in its last seven here after a blistering 14-1-1 start. Captain Max Pacioretty leads the Habs in goals (21) and points (38) but former Nashville forward Alexander Radulov has been a revelation (10-25-35) and defenseman Shea Weber (11-18-29) has maintained his All-Star form after being acquired in the P.K. Subban trade from Nashville.

 

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