MONTREAL -- The Montreal Canadiens will get a huge boost to the lineup when they face the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night.
Carey Price, an All-Star goaltender who has been out since Nov. 2, will be between the pipes for Montreal.
"It's simple; he's ready to go," Habs head coach Claude Julien told reporters on Friday. "We're happy to have him back. I think that was good news today."
The Canadiens (8-12-2) have had their fair share of struggles in the first quarter of the season, and currently find themselves mired in a five-game slide (0-3-2), having not won since the last time they played the Sabres on Nov. 11.
The return of Price will take a lot of pressure off the back end. Rookie goaltender Charlie Lindgren (3-4-1) started eight consecutive games while replacing the injured Price. Lindgren was returned to the Canadiens' AHL affiliate, the Laval Rocket, on Friday afternoon. Waiver claim Antti Niemi (0-4-1) will back Price up on Saturday.
The Sabres (5-13-4) have also struggled in the early going of the season, but are trying to turn their season around. Buffalo is coming off a 3-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Friday night, snapping a season-high losing streak at seven games. Prior to Friday night's victory, Buffalo's last win came on November 7 against the Washington Capitals.
Offense continues to be an issue for the Habs, who have scored just eight goals in their last five contests.
The Sabres, meanwhile, are led by forward Evander Kane, who currently leads the team in goals (12) and points (21) through the team's first 22 games.
The Habs lost on back-to-back nights this week against the Dallas Stars on Tuesday, and the Nashville Predators on Wednesday.
On Tuesday night, Montreal opened the scoring with forward Brendan Gallagher getting his team-leading ninth goal of the campaign, but two quick goals by Stars forwards Devin Shore and Jason Spezza quickly took the wind out of the Montreal squad. The Habs wound up losing the game 3-1.
On Wednesday, after giving up two power-play goals to Nashville, Montreal tied the game in the final minute on a point shot by another defenseman, Joe Morrow, with his third of the year. Morrow sits second in scoring among defensemen on the squad, behind only Shea Weber. Weber has missed the team's last two games with what is described as a lower-body injury.
The Habs have played the Sabres twice this season, winning both games, in a shootout and overtime. A couple of weeks ago on Nov. 11, Montreal came back, down one on a power-play marker by forward Andrew Shaw before captain Max Pacioretty's seventh goal (and third game winner) of the season. Since that game, however, Pacioretty has been unable to get his name on the scoresheet, and is a minus-8 during that stretch.
"We know these games are huge, and especially against the division teams, so we're going to come out hard," forward Andrew Shaw said after Friday's practice. "We're prepared, we're ready for it, and we're hungry for it."
Montreal recently made some roster moves, shipping hometown boy Torrey Mitchell to the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday evening in exchange for a conditional fifth-round draft pick in 2019. Defenseman David Schlemko, who has been recovering from a hand injury, was sent to the Rocket, for an AHL conditioning stint.
The Sabres have not made the playoffs since the 2010-11 season. Despite this fact, head coach and Hall of Famer Phil Housley continues to rebuild his team, as Buffalo tries to get back to the postseason.
"It's great to see that the group in there sort of has their backs against the wall at this time in the season and they're trying to work it out," Housley told NHL.com. "It shows a lot of care level in that room. I think they have to work it out together because just the execution overall, the game plan, has to be better for 60 minutes. I think they realize that."
The Canadiens will be without the services of Ales Hemsky (concussion-like symptoms), Al Montoya (concussion), forward Nikita Scherbak (lower body), forward Artturi Lehkonen (lower body).
The Sabres also have a few players on the shelf, playing without three of their defensemen Zach Bogosian (lower body), Taylor Fedun (lower body), and Matt Tennyson (foot).
Saturday night's puck drop for this Atlantic Division rivalry matchup is 7 p.m.
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