Buffalo (25-11-4) at Montreal (21-19-3)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Montreal, QC
Temp: 72° F
  • Game info: 3:00 pm EST Sun Jan 3, 2010
  • TV: RDS, MSG
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The Montreal Canadiens climbed back into contention in the Eastern Conference with a seven-game road trip that went about as well as they could have hoped. Their play at the Bell Centre, however, hasn’t been as inspiring.

Montreal tries to end a three-game home losing streak Sunday afternoon when it meets the first-place Buffalo Sabres, who posted a victory at the Bell Centre last month.

The Canadiens (21-19-3) went 6-1-0 during their longest road trip of the season, moving into seventh place in the East after their disappointing start.

“We finished (2009) on a good note and now we have to keep it going,” said defenseman Andrei Markov(notes), whose return from a 35-game absence coincided with the start of the trip.

Markov has made an immediate impact, notching at least one point in each of the seven games and totaling three goals and eight assists. He had three assists in a 5-4 win over Florida on Thursday.

Center Tomas Plekanec(notes) also had a productive trip with four goals and eight assists for Montreal, which started 6-9-1 on the road.

“That’s awesome,” left wing Benoit Pouliot(notes) said. “Now we have to do the same thing at home.”

That hasn’t been easy for the Canadiens, who are 4-7-2 at the Bell Centre since the beginning of November. They’re 9-9-2 at home after going 24-10-7 last season.

The Sabres won 4-3 in Montreal on Dec. 14 behind Clarke MacArthur’s(notes) power-play goal with 5:19 left.

Buffalo (25-11-4) leads the Northeast Division and has won three straight to improve to 13-4-2 since Thanksgiving. But neither coach Lindy Ruff nor goalie Ryan Miller(notes) were pleased after Friday’s 4-3 overtime victory over Atlanta.

It was the second straight game the Sabres won by that score after falling behind 3-0, which they had done in Pittsburgh on Tuesday.

“Any time you get points in this league, you’re happy, but we’re not satisfied,” said Miller, who was named to the U.S. Olympic team earlier Friday. “I think we have to be a lot better to truly call ourselves a team that wants to contend.”

After Drew Stafford(notes) had two goals and an assist against the Penguins, Jochen Hecht(notes) equaled that feat during Friday’s comeback, which culminated in Derek Roy’s(notes) winner that came from a fluky bounce off the glass.

“We’re not going to keep coming back from 3-0,” Ruff said. “We’re right on the cusp of either getting it figured out and going one way or looking pretty bad.”

It’s unclear which goalie the Sabres will be facing. Jaroslav Halak(notes) has won five of his last six starts while claiming more playing time, and Carey Price(notes) made 34 saves in a 2-1 overtime win over Tampa Bay on Wednesday.

Price also made 34 saves in a 2-1 overtime win at Buffalo on Oct. 3, the Canadiens’ lone victory in three meetings with the Sabres.

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Sunday, Jan 3