The Buffalo Sabres have been clicking on offense the last two weeks. Now, their top goalie appears to be back on his game as well.
Buffalo seeks its second straight win and sixth in eight games Saturday night when it visits the Northeast Division rival Montreal Canadiens.
The Sabres (16-13-3) have won five of seven after dropping eight of their previous 10 games, with offense the biggest reason for the resurgence. The Sabres have totaled 25 goals in their last seven games, including four or more in each of the five victories. Buffalo is 11-1-1 this season when scoring four goals or more, compared with a 5-12-2 mark when scoring fewer than four goals.
Both offense and goaltending came together for Buffalo on Friday night. Ryan Miller made 40 saves for his third shutout of the season - and first since Nov. 3 - as the Sabres rolled to a 5-0 home win over Los Angeles.
“Sometimes you have to have a little bit of an edge in your game, and I don’t think I’ve had it,” said Miller, who’d yielded seven total goals while losing his previous two starts. “There comes a certain point where you’re mad at yourself enough but confident enough in your game where you just go out and play.”
Derek Roy had a goal and two assists to extend his point streak to eight games. The center has four goals and eight assists during his run.
Casting a shadow on the Sabres’ night, forward Patrick Kaleta - in just his second game back after missing seven contests due to a head and neck injury - missed almost half the game after he was punched in the face by Los Angeles defenseman Denis Gauthier.
“He’s not doing well,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. “He has the same (effects) as he’s had before, where he couldn’t see. Gauthier should be suspended for that. We don’t need that in the game.”
Montreal (17-9-5) continues to take advantage of a stretch of schedule laden with home games. The Canadiens are 5-2-1 during a stretch of 10 games out of 11 at the Bell Centre, including a 5-2 home victory over Philadelphia on Thursday night.
Alex Kovalev scored for the second straight game following a career-worst 19-game goal drought, and in doing so reached 900 career points.
“I scored that first goal and now I’ve got 900 points,” Kovalev said. “I can’t even think about it. It’s hard to really imagine that I’ve been in the league 16 years and I’ve got 900 points. It probably takes a couple of days to really realize it.”
Kovalev has 24 goals and 24 assists in 71 career games against Buffalo, but has failed to register a point in two meetings this season - each of which was won by the home team. The Canadiens have won four of their last five matchups with the Sabres overall, and six of the last seven games between the teams at the Bell Centre.