The Buffalo Sabres came out of the All-Star break well-rested and facing a schedule that is conducive to climbing back into contention for a postseason bid. However, the Sabres flopped badly in a 5-2 home loss to the Ottawa Senators and will look to rebound against another Atlantic Division foe when they host the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night.
Tuesday's loss kicked off a stretch of nine home games in the next 10 for Buffalo, which also lost top netminder Linus Ullmark for at least three weeks due to a knee injury. "Adversity is something you need to look in the eyes and you need to be strong about," Sabres coach Ralph Krueger told reporters. "You need to use it, and that's what we'll do here." The Canadiens, who are tied with the Sabres in points, won four of five entered the break but were unable to keep pace with NHL-leading Washington in Monday's 4-2 home loss. The flu is going through Montreal's locker room and coach Claude Julien acknowledged "we're in a desperate situation where you cross your fingers that everybody's going to be ready to go."
TIME: 7 p.m. ET. TV: MSG Buffalo, RDS, TSN2
ABOUT THE CANADIENS (22-22-7): Montreal is expected to receive an offensive boost with the likely return of 15-goal scorer Brendan Gallagher, who has been sidelined for 10 of the last 11 games due to a concussion. Jonathan Drouin, out since mid-November after undergoing wrist surgery, practiced for a second straight day Wednesday and will travel with the team but is not ready to return to the lineup. There are also questions about the status of forwards Max Domi and Artturi Lehkonen (illness), who each missed practice Wednesday.
ABOUT THE SABRES (22-21-7): Ullmark, who supplanted Carter Hutton as the No. 1 goalie in November, had to exit Tuesday's game when he landed awkwardly on his right knee and is expected to be sidelined for three to four weeks. Krueger did not announce a starter for Thursday's matchup but is expected to go with Hutton, who is mired in an 11-start winless drought and has surrendered a staggering 17 goals in his last three starts. "I don't think anyone inside this room has ever doubted me or anything like that," Hutton told reporters Wednesday.
1. Sabres captain Jack Eichel, who set a career high with his 29th goal Tuesday, scored twice and set up two others in a 5-4 win over Montreal on Oct. 9.
2. Canadiens F Ilya Kovalchuk has four goals and eight points in nine games since signing as a free agent with Montreal.
3. Buffalo has won four of the past five meetings, including the last three at home.
Mete has been designated for the injured reserve list due to a fractured left foot. It is unclear if he will be activated prior to Game 1 of the Eastern Conference qualifying round against the Penguins.