The Canucks will pay tribute to one of the best lines in team history tonight when they continue their home stand with a visit from Jack Eichel and the Buffalo Sabres.
Prior to puck drop tonight, the Canucks will hold a pre-game ceremony with members of the famed West Coast Express line – Naslund, Bertuzzi, and Morrison – that was once one of the most feared trios in all of the NHL. Opposing teams, at least lately, don't have as much reason to fear the current Canucks. Vancouver is mired in a season-high five-game winless skid and is coming off arguably their worst loss of the season – a 4-0 blanking at the hands of the Bruins in a game Coach Desjardins said his team simply didn't battle or push.
The Canucks, especially given their current woes, can't expect any game to be a cakewalk even when facing a team that sits behind them in the overall league standings like the Sabres. Buffalo comes into tonight's game on a bit of a roll despite dropping a 4-2 decision last night in Edmonton. Prior to the loss to the Oilers, they were on a four-game regulation unbeaten streak (3-0-1) which was their longest such streak of the season. Derek Dorsett missed practice yesterday but is expected to be able to play tonight. Ryan Miller will get the call in net tonight against his old club, while blue-liner Alex Biega is expected to draw into the line-up as well likely in place of either Yannick Weber or Matt Bartkowski. The Sabres could go with back-up netminder Linus Ullmark tonight after Chad Johnson went the distance last night. Ullmark is winless in his last five starts but did beat the Canucks back on November 7.
Puck drop at 7 pm PT – Live on Sportsnet Pacific, TSN 1040, or online at tsn1040.ca.
Regular Season Record
2015.16 Season Series
Last 10 games
Last 10 head-to-head
The Sabres expected to have an improved offence coming into this season with the likes of O'Reilly, Eichel and Kane joining the line-up. It's taken a little while for their vision to come to fruition but they're finally seeing the potential come to life in recent outings. In their four games prior to yesterday's 4-2 loss in Edmonton, they scored a combined 17 goals and it was all their big names getting into the act including the aforementioned three along with the likes of McGinn and Reinhart. The Sabres certainly have potential to put lots of goals on the board just based on their line-up on paper but, even then, there have been a few surprise names none more so than Rasmus Ristolainen, the third-year Finnish blue-liner. Ristolainen had eight goals and 20 points in 78 games played last season, and is already up to four goals and 18 points in 27 games played this season. The Sabres will have an even more formidable offensive look from the back end once Cody Franson picks up his game.
Where the Sabres have really impressed so far this season has been defensively. They've only given up more than three goals in seven of their 27 games played. They'd probably have a lot more wins this season had their offence been able to step up just a little more. Buffalo has been held to two-or-fewer goals on 15 occasions this season, picking up points in only four of those outings. They've also got one of the worst win percentages in the league in one-goal games at .357 (5-6-3), although it's not nearly as bad as Vancouver's .176 (3-6-8).
Keys to the Game
Battle. Win or lose, there have not been many games this season where you could accuse the Canucks of not competing but, against the Bruins on Saturday, even their coach went as far as to suggest that was the case. After being embarrassed two nights ago, the Canucks had better respond tonight.
No free passes. For whatever reason, the Canucks have not made it hard this season for tired teams coming off a game the night before. They'll get another crack tonight facing a team playing the second half of a back-to-back and having to travel. They have to use the fatigue factor to their advantage.
The right headlines for Kane. In Evander Kane's last visit to Vancouver, he had his clothes thrown in the shower by then-teammate Dustin Byfuglien, was scratched by the Jets, and would be traded less than a week later. He'll want to be in the spotlight again but only for his on-ice performance.
Canucks Game Preview
By the Numbers
Win percentage for the Canucks against Eastern Conference teams this season (3-7-3).
Win percentage for the Sabres against Western Conference teams this season (3-5-2).
Win for the Sabres in their last their last nine visits to Vancouver (1-7-1).
Time this season the Sabres will play on zero days rest. They are 2-1-0 in the previous three.
Game active point streak for Buffalo's Jamie McGinn entering play tonight (2-4-6).
Consecutive games played by Buffalo's Rasmus Ristolainen without taking a penalty, the longest streak of his career.