Ryan Miller faces the team he played the majority of his NHL career with for the first time ever tonight when the Vancouver Canucks host the Buffalo Sabres at Rogers Arena.
For Miller, the real test of emotions figures to be at the end of February when the Canucks pay their first and only visit of the season to Buffalo where Miller spent over a decade to begin his NHL career. Tonight's game, however, should still tug at the heartstrings for the Vancouver netminder. While this game will have personal meeting for Miller, it's also huge for his team which is looking to snap a two-game losing streak not to mention a home goal-less drought that is now at eight periods and counting.
Vancouver, coming off a lackadaisical 4-0 loss to the Ducks on Tuesday, will have to snap out of their losing streak without the services of Derek Dorsett. Dorsett, who was absent from yesterday's practice, suffered an upper-body injury against Anaheim after being elbowed in the head by Ryan Kesler. Ronalds Kenins was summoned from Utica (AHL) and is likely to make his NHL debut tonight. Brad Richardson, meanwhile, is expected to miss his fourth straight game with a foot injury. Tonight could also mark the Canucks debut of offensive defenceman Adam Clendening, who was acquired from Chicago late last night.
Puck drop at 7 pm PT – Live on Sportsnet Pacific, TSN 1040, or online at tsn1040.ca.
Regular Season Record
2014.15 Season Series
Last 10 games
Last 10 head-to-head
The Sabres came into this season expecting it to be a rebuild year but hopeful that some of their young talent would be able to shine. It hasn't quite worked out that way. Their success stories have been rare – the emergence of unlikely All-Star Zemgus Girgensons is one of the few – while their disappointments have been plentiful, headlined by former promising Canuck first-round pick Cody Hodgson who has just seven points this season after recording a career-high 44 points last season.
Buffalo, which was lost both games to Vancouver in last year's season series, is trying to snap two lengthy streaks – a 13-game overall losing streak and a 13-game winless streak on the road. The Sabres haven't won a game in 2015 yet with their last victory coming on December 27 against the Islanders and they haven't tasted victory away from home since all the way back on November 29 when they beat Montreal at the Bell Centre in a shootout. To add insult to injury, the Sabres are also missing starting netminder Michal Neuvirth who was hurt while working out during the All-Star break. Defenceman Tyler Myers could also be unavailable after he left last night's game in Edmonton with an ankle injury.
Keys to the Game
Miller has his night. When Miller faced his other former team, the Blues, earlier this season he turned in one of his best efforts. You can bet he'd love to do the same against a Sabres team that he was once the face of the franchise. Add that to the fact he had a rough last outing and let's just say this one is personal.
Put the advantage back in man-advantage. It's one thing for the power play to not score. It's another when it becomes a momentum-sapping exercise in futility. Tonight the Canucks face the worst PK unit in the league. If that doesn't turn things around, then what will? Vancouver has no power play goals in four straight games going 0-for-15 during that stretch.
Get a Cody sighting. There will be a huge spotlight, for obvious reasons, on ex-Canuck Cody Hodgson whose fall from grace this season has been epic. Buffalo isn't really counting on him anymore these days to be a difference-maker, but maybe playing the Canucks will spark him to be one. He has no points in three games versus Vancouver since the trade.
By the Numbers
Straight home losses for the Canucks, their longest such streak this season.
Latvians that have played for the Canucks in franchise history: F Herberts Vasiljevs, G Arturs Irbe & G Peter Skudra.
Rookies that have played a game for the Canucks this season. Kenins & Clendening would be the fifth and sixth.
Straight losses for the Canucks in games without Kevin Bieksa in the lineup dating back to April 25, 2013.
Minutes and 21 seconds of consecutive playing time the Canucks have not scored a goal on home ice.
Wins by Ryan Miller as a member of the Buffalo Sabres, most in franchise history.