Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Division Champs Host Desperate Sabres

The newly crowned Northeast Division Champion Montreal Canadiens play host to the need-a-miracle-to-make-the-playoffs Buffalo Sabres Thursday night.

Fresh off a 32-save performance that helped the Habs clinch the Division, Carey Price was named NHL Rookie of the Month for the month of March today, edging out other candidates Sam Gagner, Nicklas Backstrom, Patrick Kane and fellow 'tender Erik Ersberg of L.A.

Price will get the start tomorrow night and will go head to head with Ryan Miller. Miller has surrendered 17 goals in six games against Montreal this season, but 10 have come in the last two matchups - both losses.

Since becoming the Canadiens #1 goalie at the trading deadline with the sending of Cristobal Huet to Washington, Carey Price has dominated between the pipes. He has registered 10 wins in his 13 starts, losing only to top-tier teams San Jose, Anaheim and Ottawa. His goals-against-average in that span is 2.29; two of his 10 wins have come versus and in Buffalo.

The Habs (45-25-10) now trail Pittsburgh by 2 points, as the Penguins were able to topple the Flyers 4-2 tonight. Pittsburgh have 102 points through 81 games.

The Sabres (38-30-12) won the Presidents' Trophy last season by setting franchise records with 53 wins and 113 points, but sit in 10th place in the East this season with two games remaining for them.

Should the Sabres not take tomorrow's contest into overtime, their season will officially be over.

The Sabres reached the conference finals each of the last two seasons, losing to eventual Stanley Cup winner Carolina in 2006 and Ottawa last year. Now, Buffalo is trying to avoid joining the New York Rangers (1992-93) and Montreal (1969-70) as the only teams since 1967-68 to miss the postseason after leading the league in points the previous season.

A win for Buffalo tomorrow night would put them at 90 points, one point off 8th place Philadelphia.

Washington currently holds down the 9th spot, but plays host to Tampa Bay tomorrow. An overtime loss would be good enough for Washington to grab the 8 spot, as they would equal Philly in points while having one more win.

Who will be more desperate tomorrow night...a team gunning down 1st in the East, or a team playing for their postseason lives? If Tuesday's game was any hint, don't necessarily favor the Sabres.

Notes: The Canadiens recalled forwards Matt D'Agostini and Greg Stewart from the AHL affiliate Hamilton Bulldogs today. No word yet on whether or not they will both play, but they will practice with the team Thursday morning.

Puck drop: 7:38

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