NHL

Sabres-Canadiens Preview

The last time the Montreal Canadiens faced the Buffalo Sabres, they were riding the high of a win streak that fell one game shy of an NHL record.

This time around, the Canadiens are about as low as they can get.

Montreal seeks just its sixth win during a two-month free-fall when it opens a four-game homestand Wednesday night against the Sabres.

Montreal (24-23-4) started the season with nine consecutive wins, the eighth of which was a 7-2 rout in Buffalo on Oct. 23 that snapped a three-game skid in this series. The Canadiens added a win over Toronto the next day for a streak that fell one shy of the record set by the 1993-94 Maple Leafs and matched by the Sabres in 2006-07.

Fast forward about five weeks to Dec. 1 and the Canadiens owned the NHL's best record at 19-4-3. Skip ahead another two months and they've plummeted out of the Eastern Conference's playoff picture with by far the league's worst record in that span.

The Canadiens have earned just 11 points (5-19-1) since Dec. 3, making them the only team with fewer than 20 in that time. They've gone 2-8-0 at home and have failed to log points in consecutive games while averaging a league-low 1.84 goals and allowing 3.24.

Monday's return from the All-Star break brought much of the same for the NHL's most two-faced team. What was supposed to be the start of a resurgence turned into a 4-2 loss at Philadelphia, the club's third straight and eighth in nine games dating to Jan. 9.

The Habs erased a two-goal deficit only to surrender a pair in the final period.

"We're just all looking for answers in here," defenseman Nathan Beaulieu said. "It's frustrating. I mean, we're not going to give up on each other... We've got to really look at ourselves in the mirror right now."

Montreal has scored 16 goals in its last nine games while allowing 34.

Although the Sabres (20-26-4) have lost three of four, Robin Lehner has performed well with a 2.02 goals-against average and .948 save percentage in three starts during that stretch - giving him four since returning from an ankle injury Jan. 15.

Lehner, who was hurt in the second period of the season opener Oct. 8, picked up his first win with Buffalo by making 34 saves in a 3-2 victory at Ottawa on Jan. 26 which snapped the Sabres' three-game skid in the final contest before the All-Star break.

With Lehner playing well and Sam Reinhart (upper-body), Josh Gorges (upper-body) and Nicolas Deslauriers (broken foot) soon returning, things are looking up. Gorges and Deslauriers will play Wednesday, while Reinhart - who has 12 goals and eight assists in 47 games - is probable.

"I think that's good for us and then you look at our locker room, we've been pretty prone to injuries this year," Jack Eichel told the team's official website. "You see Deslauriers on the ice, he brings a lot of energy to our team, he's a key component. You see Sam's getting healthy, obviously we all know how good he can be.

"We're starting to come around."

Buffalo has averaged only 1.93 goals in its last 15 games, the last three coming without Reinhart. It's unclear if the Sabres will face Montreal's Mike Condon or Ben Scrivens in net.

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