The Canucks face their expansion cousin the Buffalo Sabres for the first and only time this season. In last seasons’s lone match up Vancouver emerged with a 3-2 victory over Buffalo. In all time meetings over the team’s 40 year history the Canucks lead 45-43-20.
Cory Schneider will start his fourth game tonight. This is his first, and most likely only start in the team’s five game Eastern road trip. He remains undefeated in his first three games, and has not allowed more than one goal a game this season.
He has a .969 SV% and a .90 GAA in 200 minutes of play.
Schneider’s start tonight gives him the opportunity to play one of his hockey idols, Olympic silver medalist Ryan Miller.
"I've heard people make comparisons about us, going the college route and leaving school early and spending a few years in the American League," Schneider told MacIntyre. "I really love the way he plays, his style. Watching the Olympics was great. As an American guy, it's good to see another American goalie succeed and do so well."
Tonight will mark Raffi Torres’ first return to Buffalo, where he spent part of last season, after being traded from the Blue Jackets on the trade deadline.
In 14 games with the Sabres, Torres recorded five assists and no goals. In his first 16 games with Vancouver, Torres has recorded nine points - second in team scoring with seven goals, including a hat trick against former team, the Edmonton Oilers and was named the NHL’s First Star of the Week earlier this month.
The Sabres have won only one of their eight home games this season and the Canucks have won four of their nine road games.
"We've been playing some exciting hockey - if you've been a fan of the visiting team. We had to get that first one to get us started at home, and we definitely want to build,” said Sabres defenceman Steve Montodor after the team’s first home win Saturday.
The Sabres have killed 16 of their last 17 penalties but it will be up against the Canucks 28.3% power play, second best in the league.
Game time is 4:00pm, catch the action on Canucks.com or Sportsnet Pacific.
PLAYING THROUGH THE PAIN
Second liner Mason Raymond hasn’t missed a game this season but he has been battling a hand injury since October when he missed three practices to tend to his sore hand. He was almost kept out of the lineup when the team was starting their road trip after a 2-0 loss to Montreal, but in practice he earned his spot in Ottawa on Thursday.
"I don't feel my best right now,” Raymond told Iain MacIntyre of the Vancouver Sun. “My body's not 100 per cent, but that's all part of hockey. Some days are better than others. You're never 100 per cent."
Raymond scored the game winner against the Toronto Maple Leafs, an improbable goal from just inside the Toronto zone that managed to slide right under the pads of Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
This was Raymond’s fourth goal of the season, and his first in seven games.
"You just keep battling and doing the things you can," Raymond said. "I took a shot that probably shouldn't have gone in, but it did. It's been a little frustrating from a personal standpoint, but I'm battling through it. I'm going to get better moving forward."
Linemate Mikael Samuelsson doesn’t believe that Raymond’s injured hand will effect his play.
"If he plays, in my mind he's considered healthy," Mikael Samuelsson told MacIntyre. "Otherwise, you don't play. If he's in the lineup, I don't see him as half-injured. He can play."
Last season, Raymond had a career high 25 goals and 58 points, and is currently on track to score 21 goals and 56 points this season (4-7-11 in 16 games).
Keith Ballard and Peter Schaefer will remain out of the line up tonight. Ballard has missed the last three games and Schaefer has missed two.
Ballard has played eight games this season, after a concussion on October 15th kept him out for five games.
Media speculation says that Ballard hasn’t fully recovered from the concussion.
"We're treating this as more of a injury-related than a healthy scratch because we don't think he's been 100% yet and so we're going to take a bit of time and let him work really hard and treat this as little bit of a training camp, so he can get his feet under him,” he said. "Keith's a very big, important part of this team. He's going to be fine and we're very happy to have him."
“If we would need him, we'd be able to use him,” Vigneault said. “We're trying to work him to a [conditioning] level that if he were to step into the lineup, he'd be real good. If he was hurt, he wouldn't be practising. It's as simple as that.”
Peter Schaefer, who was signed to a one year two-way contact at the beginning of the season will miss his third game tonight but he acknowledges that sitting out will be a part of his role on the team.
"For me, I still think I can play. I've played out of position, but that's not an excuse,” Schaefer told MacIntyre, “I knew coming in this would be a deep team and I could have different roles. It might be one night in, one night out, right wing, centre -whatever it is I'm willing to accept that role."