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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Pregame Preview: Canadiens vs Sabres (Game #74)

Habs vs Sabres
Match Up:

The Canadiens (40-26-7) return home after a triumphant two game road trip to host the Sabres (20-43-8) Tuesday night at the Bell Centre. The game starts at 7:30 and airs on RDS and TSN-Habs.

This is the fourth and final game between the Habs and Sabres, and the Canadiens are looking for a season sweep. The Habs have won 3 of 3 in regulation so far, 3-1, 3-2 and 2-0. Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher both have 2 goals against the Sabres this season, and Dustin Tokarski earned his first NHL shutout in the last meeting.

What to Watch:

Alexei Emelin scored the only regulation goal for the Habs in Boston and Brian Gionta and Danny Briere picked up assists. For Gionta, it's his third point in two games since being put on a line with Briere and Rene Bourque. Carey Price is expected to return to the crease to face the Sabres, a night after Peter Budaj came up big with 28 save and 4 shootout stops against the Bruins.

It's been a rough year for the Sabres, a team more or less guaranteed to finish dead last in the league. Buffalo has just 2 wins in March out of 11 games. Chris Stewart, picked up from the Blues at the trade deadline played just 2 games for the Sabres before being forced out for the season with injury, goalie Michal Neuvirth also played just two games for Buffalo before going down as well.

What's at Stake:

The Canadiens are tied with the Lightning now for the second seed in the Atlantic division, but Tampa is holding a game in hand. Buffalo is the worse team but after a long and somewhat painful night in Boston, the Habs will still be tough pressed to earn a victory Tuesday. With the tight race for second and time running out on the season, Tuesday's outcome could have a big impact on playoff positioning.

Who's Out:

Travis Moen and Dale Weise both were forced out of Monday's game, essentially on the same play. Boston's Kevan Miller sent Weise sliding into the boards, and Moen was knocked out of the game on his ensuing fight with Miller. No word yet on whether the duo will be ready to play on Tuesday. Brandon Prust (upper body) and Josh Gorges (hand) are out long term while Lars Eller (lower body) is day-to-day.

The Sabres are dealing with injuries to both their top goalies, Michael Neuvirth (lower body) and Jhonas Enroth (leg). Enroth was injured the last time the Habs and Sabres met when Brendan Gallagher was sent crashing into him. Tyler Myers (arm), Chris Stewart (ankle) and Alexander Sulzer (upper body) are out, Zemgus Girgensons (lower body) is questionable for Buffalo.

What Else:

By beating the Bruins on Monday the Canadiens laid claim to Reddit's NHL Championship Belt. The belt is earned by beating the previous owner, it started the season with the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks and has now found it's way to the Canadiens for a second time this year. The Canadiens managed to keep the belt for four games after a big win over the Minnesota Wild, but eventually the Capitals claimed it with a 3-2 shootout win at the end of November.

The Question Mark:

We want to hear from you: How much would long term injuries to the Habs entire fourth line affect the team's chances at winning?

Make your voice heard by leaving a comment or sending us a tweet with the #MTLHockey hashtag on Twitter.

Be sure to tune into the Montreal Hockey Talk Pregame Show an hour before the puck drop and the Post Game Show 5 minutes after the final siren. Join the live conversation by using the #MTLHockey hashtag on Twitter.

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