The Montreal Canadiens best be prepared to pick up the pace on Wednesday as they begin a stretch of three contests in four nights by concluding their season-opening three-game road trip against the Buffalo Sabres.
The Canadiens, who split two shootout decisions to begin the campaign, dropped three of four meetings last season to their Atlantic Division rivals, including two in overtime.
Jonathan Drouin followed up an assist in Montreal's season-opening 4-3 loss against the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday with a timely tally two days later to help the Canadiens ignite a four-goal flurry in a 6-5 victory versus the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Strong performances to be certain, but Drouin's play has long been met with a critical eye from coach Claude Julien.
"I'm happy with his game, but I'm not satisfied," Julien said of the 24-year-old Drouin, whose NHL career seemingly has been under the gun since the Tampa Bay Lightning selected him with the third overall pick of the 2013 NHL Draft. "In the Toronto game, he was one of our best forwards in the first two periods when we were struggling. He's the guy who was on top of his game."
Backup goaltender Keith Kinkaid will make his season debut for the Canadiens, who are expected to send Carey Price to the crease for Thursday's home opener against the Detroit Red Wings and again two nights later versus the reigning Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues.
"I'm going to approach it like any other game," the 30-year-old Kinkaid told the Montreal Gazette of his first regular-season game in a Canadiens uniform. "I felt really good in preseason. I'm just trying to keep my cardio up and stay in game shape as best I can in practice and be ready when they need me."
Kinkaid has fared well in four career starts against the Sabres, turning aside 108 of 116 shots to post a 3-0-1 record.
Buffalo begins a three-game homestand after falling short in its bid for its first 3-0-0 start to a season following Monday's 4-3 overtime loss to the Blue Jackets at Columbus.
Offseason acquisition Marcus Johansson scored a power-play goal in the second period, and fellow Swede Victor Olofsson did the same with 1:14 remaining in the third for the rookie's team-leading third tally of the season. That earned Buffalo a point after trailing 2-0 and 3-1.
"We let them do their thing and got away from our game a little bit," the 29-year-old Johansson said. "It cost us, but I think we showed a lot of character to come back into this game. Even if it didn't end the way we wanted it to, we got one point out of it, and I think that was big.
"It showed character in this room and there's no quit. So, it's a big one point."
Olofsson was responsible for that, as the 24-year-old answered his first career two-goal performance in the Sabres' 7-2 romp over New Jersey on Saturday with a timely goal from the right circle.
"They were kind of taking (captain Jack Eichel) away, so me and Rasmus (Dahlin) had a lot of space to work with," Olofsson said. "Just trying to find that one-timer through. It wasn't the greatest shot, but I had some good screens in front and it went in."
Jeff Skinner, who has scored a goal in back-to-back contests, erupted for seven points (four goals, three assists) in last year's season series against Montreal, while Eichel recorded six points (one goal, five assists) in that stretch.
--Field Level Media