Red-hot Sabres take on struggling Habs

The Buffalo Sabres offense is thriving, and the Montreal Canadiens defense is struggling.

That will set up a meeting of opposites Friday afternoon at KeyBank Center with the Sabres trying to extend their seven-game winning streak and the Canadiens trying to stop a two-game skid.

After defeating the Philadelphia Flyers 5-2 Wednesday night, the Sabres (14-6-2) are on their longest winning streak since 2006-07 when they won their first 10 games of the season.

“I think it’s a testament to the guys putting in the work every day, coming here and just trying to get better,” Sabres captain Jack Eichel said. “I think that’s what we’ve done. With that being said, it’s November. … There’s so much of our season left. We want to keep doing it. Your objective is to win every game.”

The Canadiens (11-7-4) lost 5-2 to the New Jersey Devils Wednesday in Newark, N.J. and their defense provided scant protection for goaltender Carey Price.

“Well, our back end had a tough (game). … there’s no doubt about that,” Canadiens coach Claude Julien said. “But at the end of the day, there’s a lot of things, too, the forwards can do on the defensive side of things. Even our backcheck … our backchecking at times once we get past the blue line, they’re still beating us to the net. So, we need to be better in those situations as a team, not just as defensemen.”

Julien said Thursday at practice that Anti Niemi will start in goal Friday.

Julien also said that defenseman Shea Weber, who has not played this season after knee surgery, could begin playing Tuesday against the Carolina Hurricanes. Weber practiced with the team Thursday.

The Canadiens do have a streak going of their own. Max Domi scored one goal against the Devils and has at least one point in 11 consecutive games (six goals, nine assists). He has 11 goals and 15 assists this season overall.

The Sabres reversed their recent trend Wednesday. Returning from a three-game trip in which they struggled early in games and came back to win, they scored four goals in the first period against the Flyers.

“We were really focused and, on our toes,” Sabres coach Phil Housley said. “We really attacked the game in the first period. We shot pucks off the rush, we got pucks to the net. The power play scored a big goal. It was the start that we were looking for, especially coming back home to a big crowd. The fans were great.”

The Flyers came back to score twice in the second period, but Carter Hutton again was solid in goal for the Sabres.

At 7-2-1, the Sabres are off to their best start in home games to a season since 2009-2010 when they also started 7-2-1 at home.

Defenseman Lawrence Pilut could make his Sabres debut Friday. The 22-year-old was called up from Rochester of the American Hockey League Wednesday after defenseman Marco Scandella left the morning skate with a lower-body injury picked up Monday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Pilut was tied for the scoring lead among AHL defensemen with three goals and 19 assists at the time of his promotion. In a corresponding move the Sabres put Patrik Berglund on injured reserve with an upper-body injury.

Julien feels that his team might be tired because of the schedule.

“We’ve played 11 games in 21 days, and I’m sensing some fatigue,” the coach said. “Mentally, that’s where you’ve got to stay sharp and maybe keep your game a little simpler if you’re going to get through those kinds of situations, because that’s the way the League is. Playing that much, sometimes games aren’t always perfect. That’s why we win a lot of them, and that’s why sometimes we play games like (Wednesday). It’s about building some consistency in our game and being better in every area. You can’t win in this league if you don’t have all 19 horses going, and tonight we didn’t have all 19 horses going.”