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Game 61: Canucks at Sabres (02.26.15)

by Daniel Fung / Vancouver Canucks
The Vancouver Canucks look to close out their five-game road trip by posting their third straight victory when they take on the Buffalo Sabres at the First Niagara Center.

The main storyline coming into this game should have been the triumphant return of Ryan Miller to Buffalo for the first time. Instead the focus will be on the continuation of the Eddie Lack era which began, at least on an interim basis, on Tuesday with a solid 2-1 victory in Boston in a game where the affable Swede turned aside 40 of 41 shots. The Sabres, at least on paper, don't pose as intimidating of a test as the Bruins did two nights ago but the Canucks have been accused at times of playing down to the level of their opponent. It's something they'll look to avoid doing tonight.

The Canucks did not practice yesterday so any potential lineup changes won't be revealed until the morning skate at the earliest. While Miller won't have his homecoming tonight, Zack Kassian will get to face his former club for the fifth time in his career and will be looking to add to the seven points (1-6-7) he has posted against his old team. One of those six career assists he has versus Buffalo came back on January 30 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver's 5-2 win.

Puck drop at 4 pm PT – Live on Sportsnet Pacific, TSN 1040, or online at tsn1040.ca.

Regular Season Record

35-22-3 18-38-5

2014.15 Season Series

1-0-0 0-1-0

All-time Series

48-44-21 46-48-19

Last 10 games

7-3-0 3-5-2

Last 10 head-to-head

6-2-2 4-6-0
 

Scouting Report

The Sabres may be coming off a 4-2 win over the Blue Jackets on Tuesday but don't let that fool you because this is not a very good team. Granted, they do have a .500 record (2-2-2) since swinging the blockbuster trade to acquire Evander Kane from the Winnipeg Jets but seeing as how Kane won't be debuting with his new team until next season that doesn't really explain their recent mini-turnaround. While we hate to kick a guy when he's gone, considering one of the players the Sabres jettisoned in the Kane trade was defenceman Tyler Myers who owns the league's worst SAT (Shot Attempts: 5-on-5 when player is on the ice) number, maybe it's no surprise their goals against average has dropped drastically since the trade.

Buffalo's biggest problem these days – one they've had all season, really – is they can't score. Their four-goal outburst against Columbus marked the first time in 14 outings that they've been able to score more than three goals in a game. If you're looking for a Sabre that's on a hot streak – and it's really a stretch to call it that – Zemgus Girgensons has a modest two-game point streak while Matt Moulson just had his three-game point streak snapped in Buffalo's last game. Girgensons, along with leading scorer Tyler Ennis, were both banged up in the Sabres' last outing and are questionable for tonight's game. Of course, the Canucks will want to pay particular attention to Chris Stewart, who had a two-goal game when these teams met earlier this season. Stewart also scored in the win over Columbus on Tuesday. Prior to that, he had been goal-less in 10 straight following that two-goal performance in Vancouver.

Keys to the Game

Be the aggressor. The Canucks, at times, sat back a little too much in their game in Boston allowing the Bruins to get chance after chance especially in the middle frame. That shouldn't and can't happen against a team that sits dead last in the league in goals per game (1.75) and shots per game (23.1).

Protect the net front. With the Canucks down their number one netminder, you can bet other teams will be looking to take a few more liberties by crashing the net. The Bruins certainly did on Tuesday. Vancouver needs make sure they do a better job preventing overzealous forwards from barreling in on their netminder.

Stay stifling. Netminding may be the only good thing the Sabres have got going lately. Michal Neuvirth, who has started the last six in a row since Jhonas Enroth was traded away, has stopped 220 of 231 shots (.952 save percentage) during that stretch. If the Sabres win tonight, he'll be the reason why.


By the Numbers

.083

Win percentage for the Sabres in their last 12 home games (1-10-1). They've lost five in a row at home.

.571

Scoring percentage for Zack Kassian in his last three games (4 goals on 7 shots).

3

Straight games with a goal for Zack Kassian, equaling his season-high and career-high.

3

Straight wins for the Canucks against the Sabres dating back to October 17, 2013.

5

Game matching point streaks for Henrik (3-6-9) and Daniel Sedin (0-7-7) entering tonight's game.

28:08

Average time of ice for Zach Bogosian since joining the Sabres, leading the team. He will play in his 400th career game tonight.

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