The 2011-2012 regular season has been a ride of intermittent highs and inexplicable lows for the Buffalo Sabres. Yet with nine games remaining Buffalo finds themselves just two points back of the eighth place Washington Capitals for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Tonight the Sabres host the the last place Montreal Canadiens with a chance to close the gap on the idle Capitals.
Buffalo is coming off an impressive road win in Tampa Bay on Monday night. The Sabres utterly dismantled the Lightning 7-3, with another strong effort from the line of Drew Stafford, Tyler Ennis, and Marcus Foligno who combined for seven points and a plus four rating on the night. Marcus Foligno has been a catalyst for the Buffalo offense of late, tallying five points in his last three contests, and now has seven points in six games with the big club.
Tonight’s tilt against Montreal will feature the return of Tyler Myers who has just finished serving his three game suspension for a hit against these very same Canadiens just over a week ago. Myers drove Montreal’s Scott Gomez into the boards from behind late in last Monday’s game, a play that was only deemed a minor infraction in-game, but was seen suspension worthy by NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan. The Sabres went 1-0-2 with shootout losses against Colorado and Florida in Tyler’s absence.
Another roster move of note was the unexpected call-up of forward Travis Turnbull from the Rochester Americans yesterday afternoon. Buffalo has recalled Travis on an emergency basis, but it is not yet known who on the current Sabres roster has suffered an injury or illness. For Montreal, Brian Gionta, Travis Moen, and Raphael Diaz remain out of the lineup.
This will be the sixth and final meeting between these Northeast division rivals tonight. The Sabres have bested the Canadiens in four of the previous five games this season, and three straight overall. Both Buffalo’s Derek Roy, and Montreal’s Max Pacioretty have six points each in the five contests between the two clubs this season. Ryan Miller also has played well against the Canadiens with a 3-0-1 record, a 1.70gaa and a .940% this season.
Buffalo enters play having gotten some outside help last night with the Pittsburgh Penguins disposing of the Winnipeg Jets in regulation, giving the Sabres some breathing room beneath them. With Winnipeg sitting four points back of Washington, and a brutal road stretch to close out the season on the horizon, it is becoming more and more a two team race between the Capitals and the Sabres.
Washington is idle tonight, but Buffalo can draw even in points with a victory over the lottery bound Habs. The Capitals are in action tomorrow night in Philadelphia, and both Buffalo and Washington square off in Washington on Tuesday 3/27. The opening face-off takes place at the First Niagara Center tonight at 7pm and the game will be broadcast on MSG.