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Habs gear up for Buffalo

The Canadiens head into Buffalo tonight to take on their Northeast Division rivals. While the lineup is relatively the same, the Canadiens have made a couple of tweaks. One involves their first line.

Benoit Pouliot has been moved down to to third line, slotting in with Dustin Boyd and Tom Pyatt. An interest move, as it adds some finish and size to what should be a young, fast and energetic trio of forwards. Of course, this means Pouliot is off the first line, and Travis Moen will be skating beside Scott Gomez and captain Brian Gionta.

Many will remember that Moen fit well with Gomez and Gionta during last spring’s Washington playoff series. Moen moved up to the first line for game five, when the Habs were down 3-1, and helped change the tone by creating space for the vertically challenged Gomez and Gionta. Given their slow starts, perhaps Moen is exactly what this line need to bring some energy to their game.

As for Pouliot, is this a demotion or an experiment? Perhaps a bit of both, as Pouliot hasn’t been extraordinary; however, he has worked hard and used his body well, laying a few big hits and contributing two assists over the first three games. This is likely coach Jacques Martin trying to add some scoring depth by putting together three lines that can each be offensive threats. Pouliot should be a good fit with the physical Boyd and the speedy Pyatt. More than anything, I’m sure Martin hopes this gets his new captain and big money centre firing on all cylinders.

On defence, Ryan O’Byrne steps out and Alex Picard steps in, lined up with rookie PK Subban. That pairing should make for a few palpitating moments, as Subban isn’t averse to risk and Picard isn’t averse to being caught out of position. This has to be a disappointment for Ryan O’Byrne, who finds himself out after a slow start. O’Byrne had a lot of promise a few years ago, but his chances seem to be wearing thin, especially given youngsters such as Yanick Weber pushing for NHL playing time.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see O’Byrne somewhere else in the near future, and it may be for the best. Sometimes players need a change of scenery, and O’Byrne has a lot of good tools in his game. He’s had a rough past year or two, scoring on his own net on the ice, which Habs fans don’t let him forget, and losing his mother off of it after a tough battle with cancer.

I hope O’Byrne puts his game together in Montreal. I still think he’s got the potential to grow into a serviceable, physical fifth or sixth defenceman. But he’s running out of chances.

Carey Price starts his fourth game in a row for Montreal, coming off a loss in which he faced almost 50 shots. I have no doubt he’ll be hoping his defencemen cut down on shots and scoring chances. If they don’t, and the Habs are outshot for a third straight game, it seems unlikely they’ll add to the win column.

Filed in: NHL Teams, Montreal Canadiens, | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: benoit+pouliot, ryan+o'byrne

Comments

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The Sabres have lost three of their first four, and have struggled to score, lighting the lamp a mere 8 times during that span. If Montreal is to bounce back from their loss against Tampa Bay, Buffalo could be the team to do it against.

I believe the outcome of this game will rest largely with Ryan Miller who, despite the loss against NJ earlier this week, only allowed one goal. He had allowed 9 in his previous 2. Buffalo will also be playing in their 40th anniversary game, so they should be fired up at the drop of the puck.

I’d look for the Habs to try and weather an early flurry from the Sabres in the first and win the game in the second and third period. I don’t think they’ll want to go back home for their game against the Sens tomorrow night with a loss, as tonight and tomorrow’s games will be less than 24 hours apart, and winning the second one will be a challenge.

Posted by Briney on 10/15/10 at 02:53 PM ET

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You were bang on re: Miller. The Canadiens first goal was a fluke, as Picard banked it off a Sabre, and on the second Miller was screened. It’s not often the Canadiens have beaten the Sabres in Buffalo in the past few years, and they had to work hard to get the victory.

Even more impressive is the fact the Habs battled back late in the game against Ottawa for the win. Often, teams wilt in the final third period of back to back games. The Canadiens seemed to get stronger, spurred on by some good physical play and Carey Price’s glove saves. It was a good weekend for Montreal, and they get a few days to rest up for NJ. Andrei Markov will be back soon as well - hopefully, that helps the 1/17 power play get into gear.

Thanks as always for the comments.

Posted by The Upper Canadien from Toronto on 10/17/10 at 04:25 PM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

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