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Habs look for second win to start season as they visit Sabres

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The Sports Network
10/3/2009 11:34:09 AM
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(Sports Network) - The Montreal Canadiens will try to win a second straight game to start the 2009-10 season when they visit the Buffalo Sabres for tonight's Northeast Division battle at HSBC Arena.

The Canadiens earned a thrilling overtime win over the rival Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday, as they began their campaign on a five-game road trip. Josh Gorges scored with 13 seconds remaining in OT to lift the Habs to a 4-3 decision at Air Canada Centre.

However, the victory came at a huge cost as Montreal's top defenseman Andrei Markov suffered a lacerated ankle tendon towards the end of the game. The injury will require surgery and Markov is expected to miss four months.

The Russian blueliner suffered the injury during the third period when teammate and Habs goaltender Carey Price's skate slashed Markov's ankle while the netminder was trying to establish position inside the crease. The 30-year- old Markov notched 12 goals and a career-best 64 points in 78 games last season.

Glen Metropolit registered a goal and an assist for the Canadiens, who secured a win in their first game with Jacques Martin as head coach.

The Habs also received a 43-save effort from Carey Price, who is in his second full season as Montreal's No. 1 goaltender.

"(Price) gave us a chance to win," said Gorges. "If it wasn't for him, the game could have easily been blown out."

Montreal will continue its season-opening swing with a three-game tour of western Canada, beginning with Tuesday's stop in Calgary.

The Sabres, meanwhile, are kicking off their season on home ice tonight after missing the playoffs for the second straight year in 2008-09. Buffalo hasn't missed the postseason by much, as the club has been over 90 points in each of its last two seasons. Last year, the Sabres finished just two points behind Montreal for the eighth and final seed in the East.

The Sabres are once again led on offense by two-time 40-goal scorer Thomas Vanek and centerman Derek Roy, who led Buffalo with 70 points in 2008-09. Vanek finished last season with 40 goals and 64 points.

Buffalo's back end is solidified by the goaltending of Ryan Miller, who is entering his fifth year as the Sabres' main man between the pipes. Miller turned in another strong season in 2008-09, going 34-18-6 with a 2.53 goals against average and .918 save percentage. Both his GAA and save percentage represented career bests for the Michigan native.

The netminder's importance to the club was clearly illustrated last year when he suffered an ankle sprain in late February. Miller watched as his team went 4-7-2 without him and fell out of the Eastern Conference playoff race. He eventually returned to action in late March, but it was to late to save his club's postseason chances.

Another mainstay in Buffalo is Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff. The longest tenured coach in the NHL, Ruff is set to begin his 13th season as the Sabres' bench boss.

The Sabres next game isn't until Thursday, when they welcome the Phoenix Coyotes to western New York.

Buffalo won four of the six encounters with the Habs last season and Montreal has dropped three straight and six of its last eight tests at HSBC.

 

Carey Price (Photo: Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)
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