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Canucks in search of offense, confidence vs. Sabres

by Kevin Woodley

SABRES (11-13-3) at CANUCKS (9-11-8)


VANCOUVER -- Ryan Miller will be in goal for the Vancouver Canucks against the Buffalo Sabres on Monday.

Miller spent his first 11 NHL seasons with the Sabres.

However, keeping pucks out of their net isn't the only problem for the slumping Canucks. They're struggling to generate shots, let alone goals, at the other end.

The Canucks were held under 20 shots for the third straight game in a 4-0 loss to the Boston Bruins on Saturday, the first time since 1999 they have been held under 20 shots in three straight games. They've scored three goals while being shut out twice in their past four games.

Coach Willie Desjardins will make some minor changes to his forward lines and defense pairs against the Sabres, but said the biggest thing missing on a Canucks team with three wins in its past 16 games (3-9-4) and none in the past five (0-3-2) is confidence.

"It comes to confidence," Desjardins said. "You get a heavy schedule and things don't go quite right and then you start second guessing and you just want to make sure. And as soon as you take that half a second to make sure, you've lost it."

Finding that confidence is easier said than done with the Canucks struggling at both ends of the rink. Miller has two wins and an .894 save percentage in his past 11 starts, and Vancouver has given up three goals or more in 14 of its past 16 games.

"If you don't get the confidence back it's hard to win," Desjardins said. "So somehow you have to get the confidence back before you create the wins."

To try and find their confidence, the Canucks let former players Markus Naslund, Todd Bertuzzi and Brendan Morrison speak to the team before an optional morning skate. Dubbed the West Coast Express, they formed one of the most dominant forward lines in the NHL during their time with the Canucks. They are being honored during the game as part of the 20th anniversary celebrations for Rogers Arena.

"I grew up idolizing Naslund so it was pretty incredible," said rookie center Jared McCann, 19. "They just said have fun with the game … and that we need to focus on what we can control and the rest will take care of itself."

Desjardins said Sven Baertschi will return to the lineup after being scratched in two of the past four games to take the place of recent American Hockey League call-up Ronalds Kenins, and veteran defenseman Yannick Weber will be a healthy scratch in favor of Alex Biega, who has played three games since being recalled from the AHL in early November.

The Sabres, who are coming off a 4-2 loss at the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday, will start Linus Ullmark in goal after Chad Johnson played against the Oilers. There could be at least one other lineup change.

Coach Dan Bylsma did not speak to the media, but defenseman Jake McCabe was one of two skaters on the ice with both goalies Monday morning. Based on how long and hard he skated, McCabe probably will be replaced by Mike Weber, who has missed 13 games because of a knee injury suffered during a 3-2 win against Vancouver on Nov. 7.

Here are the projected lineups:


Evander Kane - Ryan O'Reilly - Sam Reinhart

Brian Gionta - Jack Eichel - Jamie McGinn

Johan Larsson - Zemgus Girgensons - Matt Moulson

Nicolas Deslauriers - David Legwand - Marcus Foligno

Josh Gorges - Rasmus Ristolainen

Carlo Colaiacovo - Zach Bogosian

Mike Weber - Cody Franson

Linus Ullmark

Chad Johnson

Injured: Robin Lehner (ankle), Tyler Ennis (upper body), Mark Pysyk (lower body)

Scratched: Cal O'Reilly, Jake McCabe


Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Jannik Hansen

Chris Higgins - Jared McCann - Radim Vrbata

Sven Baertschi - Bo Horvat - Alexandre Burrows

Brandon Prust - Adam Cracknell - Derek Dorsett

Alexander Edler - Christopher Tanev

Dan Hamhuis - Alex Biega

Ben Hutton - Matt Bartkowski

Ryan Miller

Jacob Markstrom

Injured: Luca Sbisa (hand), Jake Virtanen (hip), Brandon Sutter (sports hernia surgery)

Scratched: Ronalds Kenins, Yannick Weber

Status report: Virtanen skated Monday for the first time since injuring his hip Nov. 30 against the Anaheim Ducks, but Desjardins said he's not close to playing.

Who's hot: McGinn has two goals and four assists during a five-game point streak. … Eichel has one goal and one assist in his past two games.

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