One of the hottest NHL teams outside of Pittsburgh has been the surging Montreal Canadiens, who are getting solid contributions from seemingly everyone who puts on the sweater.
They're still not taking the disappointing Buffalo Sabres lightly, though.
Montreal looks to extend its winning streak while dealing Buffalo a sixth consecutive road loss Tuesday night in the first of two meetings at the Bell Centre this week.
The Canadiens (19-5-4) trail the Eastern Conference-leading Penguins by two points with a pair of games in hand. They've won five straight during Pittsburgh's nine-game run that began with a wild 7-6 overtime win March 2 at the Bell Centre.
Montreal, which also hosts Buffalo on Saturday, has earned at least one point in 16 of its last 17 games (13-1-3).
"It's not any one particular line," said Colby Armstrong, who scored his first goal of the season in Saturday's 2-1 victory at New Jersey. "When you get goals from everyone it certainly helps out."
Tomas Plekanec has four scores and three assists over his last seven after netting the game-winning goal in the third period, with defenseman Jarred Tinordi getting the assist in his NHL debut.
"We've got great depth, balanced scoring and you get different guys pitch in on different nights," captain Brian Gionta said. "That's what you need to be successful."
Though plenty is going well for the Canadiens, they're aware struggling Buffalo (10-15-4) still poses a threat despite its record.
"You've got a team that might be at the bottom of the standings, but on a given night they're going to win a game," Gionta said.
That hasn't happened very often for the Sabres, who dropped to 1-3-3 since March 3 with Sunday's 5-3 loss at Washington.
Ryan Miller fell to 0-3-1 with a 3.98 goals-against average over his last four starts, and said Buffalo, which is 0-3-2 on the road in March, needs to begin playing better if it hopes to make a push for the postseason.
"It's frustrating where we're at, but we need to keep things in perspective," Miller said. "There's points to be had. To make the playoffs we're going to have to play a lot of good games and get a lot of wins."
Miller put himself at the center of controversy for critical comments made after Sunday's game regarding teammate Patrick Kaleta, saying the winger needs to "grow up" after expressing negative feelings about being a healthy scratch despite being eligible to return from a five-game suspension.
Miller, though, said the two have patched things up and took responsibility for any problems he may have caused.
"I think everyone's prone to say stupid things over the course of the season," Miller said. "I apologized to Patty. I felt like what I was told he said and what he actually said were two different things. He just wants to come back and play as soon as possible. We're going to try and move on from that."
The team's focus has shifted to facing Montreal. The Canadiens ended a five-game home losing streak to Buffalo with a 6-1 victory Feb. 2 before the Sabres earned a 5-4 shootout win Feb. 7.
Miller allowed four goals in each meeting, but he's still 7-1-1 with a 1.81 GAA in his last nine starts in the series.
"Montreal has been going good," Miller said. "It's a challenge for us and we're going to have to play a smart game."
Carey Price, who has a 2.21 GAA in four starts during the Canadiens' winning streak, could be in net Tuesday. He has a 1.70 GAA in his last 15 starts versus the Sabres.
The Associated Press News Service
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