After coming up short against one of the NHL’s top goalies, the Montreal Canadiens will have to deal with one of the league’s leading scorers.
Yet the Habs will have P.K. Subban in the line-up for the first time this season to help them do that as the two sides finally agreed on a deal for the RFA on Jan. 28.
The Canadiens will try to bounce back from their first loss in five games Saturday when they host a Buffalo Sabres team looking for its sixth straight win in Montreal.
The Canadiens were riding high during a four-game winning streak before Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson denied them their first five-game run in nearly two years in a 5-1 loss Wednesday.
— Chris Nichols (@Nichols_NHLPool) February 2, 2013
Montreal (4-2-0) scored four goals in each game of the streak but couldn’t do it again despite getting off 32 shots. Anderson, though, has been tough on everyone, leading the NHL with a 0.99 goals-against average.
Now Montreal takes on a much different challenge as it tries to contain Buffalo’s Thomas Vanek, who had his second five-point game of the season with three goals and two assists in a 7-4 victory at Boston on Thursday.
The left wing has six goals and nine assists, but he’s scored one goal in his last 21 games against the Canadiens.
“Pucks are going in right now for me,” Vanek said. “There’s going to be stretches where nothing goes. So you like it right now, but you know it’s going to head the other way.”
After winning its first two games, Buffalo lost four straight before beating the Bruins, who entered 5-0-1.
Right wing Jason Pominville has also enjoyed a fast start with five goals and 12 points, including a goal and two assists Thursday.
Montreal’s Carey Price, who has won four straight starts, will try to slow Buffalo (3-3-1) after sitting out at Ottawa. Price has a 1-4-2 record in his last seven home games against the Sabres despite a 1.55 GAA.
PK Subban in the lineup today vs Sabres #Canadiens
— Alyson Lozoff (@AlysonLozoff) February 2, 2013
Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov may also play a key role after notching eight points in his last five games – all on the power play. Markov had his fourth assist Wednesday, setting up Tomas Plekanec’s fourth goal in five games.
Fellow defenseman Raphael Diaz ranks among the league leaders with eight assists.
Montreal, however, went 1 for 6 on the power play against the Senators after converting 8 of 27 in its first five games.
“Special teams are key if you want to win hockey games,” coach Michel Therrien said.
The Canadiens may have a tough time getting back on track in that area against the Sabres, who have killed eight of nine penalties over their last three games.
Buffalo’s Ryan Miller allowed five goals in his first three games but has given up 11 in his last three. Miller, though, is 6-0-1 in his last seven starts against the Canadiens, including three straight wins with a 0.67 GAA in Montreal.
He had 34 saves in a 3-0 home win March 21 that gave the Sabres an 8-0-1 record in the last nine meetings between the Northeast Division rivals.