Brendan Gallagher and the Montreal Canadiens face off with the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday. Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI | License Photo
Two of the hottest scorers in the NHL will face off when the Montreal Canadiens host the Buffalo Sabres at Bell Centre on Thursday.
Max Domi of the Canadiens and Jeff Skinner of the Sabres each have eight goals since Oct. 20, tying Timo Meier of the San Jose Sharks for the most in the league in that span.
Both squads were lottery teams last season, but they found themselves holding down the two wild cards in the Eastern Conference entering games Wednesday. The Canadiens (8-5-2) are in the first wild-card position while the Sabres (7-6-2) were in the second spot.
Both teams are coming off losses to the New York Rangers. Montreal lost 5-3 to the Rangers on Tuesday and Buffalo dropped a 3-1 decision Sunday.
The Canadiens will be looking for forwards Domi and Tomas Tatar to continue to show hot hands. Domi scored his team-leading ninth goal (tied with Brendan Gallagher) while Tatar had two goals, including his first 23 seconds into the game in the loss to the Rangers.
The Canadiens, playing the second half of a back-to-back against the Rangers, couldn't hold a 3-1 lead in the third period at Madison Square Garden.
"I don't care what anybody says, we had a 3-1 lead so we weren't that tired," Montreal coach Claude Julien told NHL.com. "At the end of the day, we made a lot of individual mistakes, mental mistakes. Whether it's focus, whatever it is, it was self-inflicted."
"I thought our jump was pretty good off the start of the game," Canadiens goaltender Carey Price told NHL.com. "I think just as the game went on, we just allowed ourselves to become fatigued. I don't know if that's the reality of it, but it's what it seems to me."
Domi has already equaled his goal output from last season with the Arizona Coyotes. He was obtained in a trade that sent Alex Galchenyuk to the Coyotes.
Montreal lost forward Joel Armia after a knee-on-knee hit with Rangers defensemen Brendan Smith in the second period Tuesday. The Canadiens called up forward Kenny Agostino from their American Hockey League farm team in Laval on Wednesday.
Agostino, 26, leads The Rocket with four goals and six assists in 12 games this season.
Like the Canadiens with Domi, the Sabres are benefiting from an offseason acquistition with Skinner, obtained in a trade for prospect Cliff Pu and three draft picks from the Carolina Hurricanes. He has scored his eight goals since he was put on a line with Jack Eichel and Jason Pominville.
Skinner got off to a slow start with no points in his first four games, but has been on fire. He has 16 points in his past 11 games.
"The adjustment has gone pretty smoothly here," Skinner told The Buffalo News on Wednesday. "The first three, four games didn't work out the way I wanted them to personally and not as a team, either. But individuals tend to feel their success like the team. All the guys here have been very welcoming and it's been a really smooth transition for me away from the rink as at the rink. And I'm happy we're going pretty well as a team."
Skinner had six 20-goal seasons for the Hurricanes.
"I can't believe how strong he is on his stick and on his feet," Sabres coach Phil Housley said, according to The Buffalo News. "He doesn't get bounced off pucks. The one thing that's intriguing is the way he's stripping pucks from behind. He never dies on a play and is always trying to find a way to get that puck back, whether it's on the forecheck or reloading back into our own zone."
The Sabres have won one of their past five games, a 9-2 blowout of the Ottawa Senators at home on Saturday. They are 1-2-2 in that span.