Jan 28, 2012; Ottawa, ON, CANADA; Team Chara goalie Carey Price (31) of the Montreal Canadiens before the 2012 All Star skills competition at Scotiabank Place. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-US PRESSWIRE

Canadiens Welcome Sabres in a Cellar Dweller Battle

Tonight, your 11th place Montreal Canadiens receive the 14th place Buffalo Sabres at the Bell Centre.

Curiously, these North Eastern division foes have had eerily similar seasons this year. Prior to the season opener, both teams were largely considered to be playoff teams, bubble teams at worst. The Canadiens had just come off a first round, Game 7 OT elimination at the hands of Bruins, and signed Erik Cole to a four year deal. Almost immediately, people said the deal was stupid, too long, Cole wasn’t good anywhere but in Carolina next to Eric Staal, he was always injured, too old, etc. The Sabres were also coming off a 7 game loss to the Flyers in the first round, and made some huge spending moves to usher in the Pegula Era. They signed Christian Erhoff to a massive 10 year contract, then replaced Tim Connolly with Ville Leino. These moves, though questionable in terms and dollars, were largely considered to be successes.

Fast forward to the All Star Break. The Canadiens are in 11th, 8 points out of 8th, and the Sabres are in 14th at 10 points out. Though it’s still a little early to judge the free agency deals, at this juncture Erik Cole has exceeded all expectations and is on route to putting together one of his best statistical seasons, while Erhoff and Leino have largely been disappointments.

In two games against the Sabres this season, the Canadiens have lost both, given up 6 goals while only scoring 3. In contrast, Montreal is coming off a two game win streak, notably with a big one over Detroit. The Sabres won their last game against the Devils in the shootout.

3 Keys to Tonight’s Game:

1. As always, the stellar play of Carey Price in nets. He can be a difference maker here, particularly when Miller has had an entirely lack-luster season in goal for the Sabres.

2. The power play. It needs to come alive tonight. If they really and truly believe that they can make the playoffs, they need to improve the man advantage.

3. Offense from people other than Pacioretty-Cole-Desharnais. This is rather obvious, but they need more from the other players on the team.

The puck drops at 7:30pm.

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