The Buffalo Sabres will try to help their postseason chances tonight, as they host the rival Montreal Canadiens in a Northeast Division clash at First Niagara Center.
The Sabres are seeded ninth in the East and are just two points behind idle Washington for the conference's eighth and final postseason berth.
After a rough first half, Buffalo has done a great job of coming together for the stretch run as Lindy Ruff's club has earned 24 of a possible 32 points over its last 16 games (10-2-4). The Sabres dropped consecutive shootout decisions last week before breaking out of the slump with Monday's 7-3 rout of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Canadiens, meanwhile, have been all but mathematically eliminated from the postseason, but they've played competitive hockey lately. Montreal has lost three of its last four games, but has earned at least a point in each of its last six contests, going 3-0-3 over that stretch.
Buffalo is 4-0-1 against the Canadiens this season and the Sabres have taken seven of eight overall in this series. Montreal has fared well in western New York recently, however, posting a 3-0-2 mark in its last five trips to Buffalo.
Tonight's game will mark Buffalo defenseman Tyler Myers' first game back following a three-game suspension for an illegal hit from behind on Montreal's Scott Gomez. The controversial hit came in Buffalo's 3-2 overtime win over the Habs on March 12 and Gomez is still sidelined with concussion-like symptoms.
"[Myers] knows it was a cheap shot -- he got suspended," Montreal forward Brad Staubitz told his team's official website. "We'll pay attention to it but we also have to pay attention to winning the game. We can't get sidetracked."
After losing a shootout decision against the Panthers on Saturday, the Sabres earned a split in their trip to Florida with a lopsided win in Tampa. Jason Pominville and Marcus Foligno each scored two goals, as the Sabres dealt a blow to the Lightning's playoff chances while boosting their own.
Drew Stafford had a goal and two assists for the Sabres, while Corey Tropp and Brad Boyes also lit the lamp. Ryan Miller made 24 saves for Buffalo.
Cody Hodgson also added two assists to the win, giving him his first points as a Sabre after coming over from Vancouver in a trade on Feb. 27.
"It's always nice to contribute offensively on the scoresheet," Hodgson said. "I thought our line played well; I thought all four lines contributed and played big parts in the win."
Buffalo will alternate home and away games over until closing the regular season with consecutive road tilts. The Sabres are 18-11-8 at home this year and 16-18-2 as the guest.
Montreal has been off since losing in a shootout Saturday against the visiting New York Islanders. Josh Bailey scored the game-winning goal in the sixth round of the shootout, lifting the Islanders to the 3-2 win at Bell Centre.
After Canadiens' defenseman Andrei Markov shot the puck wide in the top half of the sixth round, Bailey came down the ice with speed on his attempt and buried a wrister past the stick side of Peter Budaj for the winner.
Aaron Palushaj and Louis LeBlanc lit the lamp in regulation for the Canadiens, while Budaj stopped 36-of-38 shots in defeat.
"They were throwing a lot of pucks on net, which can either be good or bad for a goalie," Budaj said. "We have a handful of games left and we want to win as many as we can, and I'll try to do what I can when I'm called upon to help the team."
Regular No. 1 netminder Carey Price will get the start tonight and is 9-7-6 with a 2.00 goals-against average in 22 career games against Buffalo.
Montreal has lost six of its last eight road games and is 15-17-4 away from the Bell Centre this season.