Share this article

print logo

Sabres vs. Canadiens: Five Things to Know

The sold-out crowd had yet to leave KeyBank Center late Wednesday night when Jack Eichel was already looking ahead to the Buffalo Sabres' next opponent.

He and his teammates planned to savor their accomplishments on Thanksgiving, most notably the franchise's first seven-game winning streak since 2006-07. They also woke up Thursday morning tied with the Toronto Maple Leafs for the second-most points in the Eastern Conference.

That 5-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers was the Sabres' 14th of the season. Remember, they didn't achieve win No. 14 until Jan. 25 last season. But Eichel made it clear their focus had already turned to the Montreal Canadiens, whom they'll host at 4 p.m. Friday.

The Canadiens, tied for fourth in the Atlantic Division with 26 points, were the first team to fall to the Sabres during this winning streak, a 6-5 overtime win for Buffalo at the Bell Centre.

"A big test for us," Eichel said.

Your five things to know about the game

1. Lineup update: Defenseman Marco Scandella (lower body) was among 10 Sabres to participate in an informal skate Thanksgiving morning at KeyBank Center. Scandella remains day to day, and it's unlikely he'll return to face the Canadiens.

That could lead to Lawrence Pilut making his NHL debut either Friday or Saturday. Pilut, a 22-year-old defenseman signed to an entry-level contract in May, was tied for the AHL lead in scoring with 22 points in 15 games, capped by a seven-game point streak.

He was called up Wednesday when Patrik Berglund was placed on injured reserve and also skated with the team Thanksgiving morning. With Scandella out, Nathan Beaulieu skated alongside Casey Nelson on Phil Housley's third defensive pairing.

Sabres recall defenseman Pilut, place Berglund on injured reserve

2. Hutton likely in goal: Though backup Linus Ullmark was on the ice for the skate, it's unlikely he'll start Friday against the Canadiens. Ullmark allowed five goals on 32 shots before being pulled against Montreal on Nov. 8. Also, Carter Hutton's on a remarkable run. He's now won six straight starts while posting a .933 save percentage and 1.99 goals-against average during that span.

3. Special teams: While the Canadiens have skilled players such as Max Domi and Jonathan Drouin, their power play ranks 28th in the league at 13.8 percent, scoring only four times in their last 46 opportunities. Meanwhile, the Sabres have killed off 19 of their last 20 penalties. Montreal isn't doing much better on the penalty kill, either. It ranks 19th at 78.9 percent and has allowed a power play goal in each of its last four games.

4. Another difficult test: Montreal is 7-3-3 this season when scoring first and 7-1-4 in one-goal games. However, the Canadiens have been terrible late in games. Though they've won three times when trailing after two periods, they've been outscored by four goals in the third.

These two teams combined for six first-period goals earlier this month, but the Sabres were the far better team in the third period of both wins over Montreal this season. Phil Housley will urge his players to start fast again. After all, the Canadiens have enough talent to take advantage of silly mistakes.

Domi has 11 goals and 15 assists; Drouin's second on the team with 19 points; and Tomas Tatar and Jeff Petry both have 17. The Sabres are still searching for consistency. They had only nine shots on goal after the first period Wednesday.

"I think it’s a big lesson we have to learn," Sabres winger Evan Rodrigues said. "We’ll continue to grow, continue to build as a team. Learn how to have good puck possession when we have a lead."

5. Home ice advantage: The Sabres experienced two of the more difficult road arenas when they escaped with victories at Winnipeg and Minnesota. Prior to puck drop Wednesday, players spoke of wanting a similar advantage when in front of their fans at KeyBank Center.

That's exactly what they received during the annual Thanksgiving eve game, when 19,070 watched Buffalo beat Philadelphia. The Sabres are 7-2-1 at home, their best 10-game start to the home schedule since 2009-10, after winning only 11 games at home last season.

Mike Harrington: Fans delivered from the opening faceoff too

Story topics: /

There are no comments - be the first to comment