Habs Holiday Miracle: Markov could return this week as Habs prepare for Sabres

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There is reason to celebrate tonight, despite the pre-Christmas rush a lot of us might be feeling. Despite the gaping hole in our pockets we know we're going to feel come the end of the month, despite the big guts we're certain to accumulate after Christmas dinners. Despite all that, Habs fans can wear a huge smile on their face on this Monday Morning.

Andrei Markov will be seeing doctors today, and if all goes according to plan, we could be seeing the Habs' #1 defenseman in uniform as early as tonight! According to Pat Hickey of the Gazette, that's unlikely, but Markov could likely dress either Wednesday when the Canadiens visit the Devils in New Jersey, or Thursday when they receive Guillaume Latendresse and the Minnesota Wild at the Bell Centre. Markov will have a full contact practice today and we should know more about his situation either later today or tomorrow.

But despite all of this rejoicing over what could be a Habs Holiday Miracle, there is still 4 nights of hockey to prepare for over the next six, and it all starts tonight against the red hot Buffalo Sabres. The Sabres lead the Northeast Division with 40 points, ahead of Boston with a game in hand. They've won 3 in a row and are 7-3-0 in their last ten. Ryan Miller is statistically the best goalie in the league, with an 18-6-2 record, a 1.83 GAA and a .939 SVP, and 4 shutouts through 26 games played. 18 year-old Tyler Myers is an early candidate for the Calder Trophy, playing top minutes as a rookie defenseman for the Sabres, and Centers Tim Connolly and Derek Roy are having good offensive seasons.

This is a team that's rolling along, winning games and making themselves a cup contender. However, RDS was quick to point out that the Sabres haven't played that well at the Bell Centre in recent times, going 0-3-1 against the Habs on the road. Carey Price, who will be in goal tonight, is 2-0-1 with a 1.95GAA against the Sabres at home. Miller vs. Price is certainly a match-up to watch tonight.

As for the Canadiens, they are coming off a 4-3 overtime loss to the Atlanta Thrashers, giving up a 2 goal lead late in the game after a 2 goal performance from Andrei Kostitsyn, only to lose it on an outstanding individual play from none other than Ilya Kovalchuk to beat Price and win the game in OT. Prior to that, the Pittsburgh Penguins broke a Habs 3 game winning streak on Thursday night in a 3-2 loss. The habs have kept it close, but they are constantly outshot and outplayed, and you can tell that they're just itching to get Markov back.

Line-up notes and Markov news to come, so for now, check out tonight's stats:

STATS:

-- HABS SABRES
Goals: Cammalleri (17) Vanek/MacArthur(9)
Assists: Plekanec (26) Roy(17)
Points: Plekanec (32) Roy (24)
Pluys/Minus: Cammalleri (+10) Tallinder (+11)
Time on Ice: Hamrlik (24:53 per game) Myers (22:23 per game)
PIMs: Mara(44) Kaleta (63)
Shots: Cammalleri(110) Pominville (86)
SVP: Price (.913) Miller (.939)
GAA: Price (2.76) Miller (1.83)
Record: Price (9-11-3 24GP) Miller(18-6-2 26GP)
Injuries: Markov (ankle, day-to-day)
Gionta (foot, day-to-day)
Pouliot (wrist, conditioning stint)
Mara (upper body, day-to-day)
Bergeron (face, day-to-day)
Gerbe (groin, day-to-day)
Butler(ankle, day-to-day)
Gaustad(knee, week-to-week)
Last 10: 4-4-2 7-3-0
Standings: 15-15-3, 8th, 33 points 19-9-2, 3rd, 40 points
GF/GA: 85GF, 26th/ 95GA, 18th 81GF, 20th / 65GA, 3rd
PP/PK %: 19.4%, 15th / 83.4%, 9th 18.2%, 19th / 84.8%, 5th

WHAT THE STATS SAY:

Tonight is all about special teams. Before Ilya Kovalchuk's goal on Saturday, the Canadiens were on a 33 penalty streak where they hadn't given up a goal. Buffalo's 5th place PK speaks for itself. The Canadiens PP is slightly better than Buffalo's so it will be interesting to see how they match up, especially if Bergeron ends up missing tonight's game (although he will probably play). The Canadiens can't fall into a 3 game losing streak, with 3 more games this week, so if I were a betting man, I'd expect this one to go to OT and for it to be a low scoring affair. Cammalleri and Roy are players to watch tonight, as is Andrei Kostitsyn, coming off a 2 goal performance.

FINAL PREDICTION: Habs 3 - Sabres 2 shoutout.

Sorry for the short blog today, I will try to have more news later in the day.

Enjoy the game,

Prax
www.thecheckingline.com
www.twitter.com/thecheckingline

PS: VOTE

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