Here is some bad news to get out of the way first on the match between the Buffalo Sabres against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Center.
1 - Patrick Lalime is NOT expected to be in nets. Ryan Miller has played in 26 of the Sabres' 30 games, and he should get the nod tonight as well.
2 - Not only will the Canadiens best defenseman, Andrei Markov, not be returning from injury tonight, but the Canadiens will also not have the services of their best offensive defenseman in Marc-Andre Bergeron as well.
3 - Coach Jacques Martin has elected to go with Jaroslav Halak between the pipes last night, despite the fact that he allowed 6 goals on 37 shots against Buffalo on Dec 3rd. Price won his match up agains the Sabres on Oct 3rd, when he allowed only 1 goal on 35 shots.
Here are the top 5 questions from The Franchise going into the game:
#1 - Will Halak once again blame a poor performance against Buffalo on a lack of playing time, like he did after he let in 6 goals against the same Sabres?
#2 - After scoring 5 goals in 3 games aginst the Bruins, Flyers and Senators, Mike Cammalleri has gone the last two games without a goal. Can he continue his pace of being the 1st Canadien in over 16 years to score at least 40 goals, and solve Miller tonight? He is expected to be on the #1 line with Plekanec and Andrei Kostitsyn.
#3 - Does younger brother Sergei Kostitsyn need to start scoring in order to avoid being sent down to Hamilton? In the 7 games the Canadiens have played so far in December, Sergei has only 1 assist, and is a -4. He will be centered tonight by the Canadiens highest paid player, Scott Gomez, and Maxime Lapierre on the 2nd line.
#4 - When does fatique, and therefore more injuries, start to rear its ugly head? The Canadiens have already played 3 more games than the Sabres, are playing their 8th game in December (vs the Sabres' 7th game), and have a total of 17 games to play this month alone (vs Buffalo's 15 games on the schedule this month). They cannot expect to continue to play "perimeter hockey" against Buffalo and get a win. They must crash the net, but what toll will that take on this already injury depleted hockey team.
#5 - Will this Habs team continue to take dumb penalties and play a man short, as they have played the 3rd most short handed minutes so far in the league. It's one thing to have killed off 33 penalty killing situations, but they cannot expect to win if they have to kill them off so often.