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Quick reunion for former Sabres, Canucks

by Adam Kimelman
SABRES (29-27-8) at CANUCKS (41-16-8)

TV: CBC, MSG-Buffalo

LAST 10:
Sabres 5-3-2, Canucks 7-1-2

Season Series:
This is the only meeting between the teams this season. In their only game last season, Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers scored with 23 seconds in overtime to give Buffalo a 4-3 victory. The last time they played in Vancouver was Jan. 25, 2010 -- a 3-2 Canucks win.

Big Story:
Will the Canucks have any let-down after their big win against the Blues on Thursday? Can the Sabres continue their strong play out west? Will the any of the four players involved in Monday's trade between the teams have an impact on the game?

Team Scope:

Sabres: Goalie Ryan Miller appears to have found his groove at the perfect time. After a rough start to the season that included a three-week absence due to a concussion, he's close to the form that won him the 2010 Vezina Trophy.

He's posted back-to-back shutouts in the first two games of the Sabres' road trip, and hasn't allowed a regulation goal in 134:28, dating to the third period of Saturday's 3-2 overtime loss to the Rangers.

"That's the Ryan Miller that won the Vezina Trophy," Sabres defenseman Mike Weber told the Buffalo News.

Miller, however, deflected the credit to his teammates.

"It's an important time of year for us, and I'm just happy to be there for the guys," Miller said. "They're battling hard right there with me, and it was a night where I could minimize mistakes and get some help around me. It's fun to get shutouts, but when we're in a 1-0 game and we really need the points, it should mean a lot to the whole team."

Canucks: While others might have been stressed over how tight the Canucks' game with the Blues was Thursday, one Vancouver player actually was enjoying all the extra pressure.

"I wouldn't say they're super fun because they're so tight," Alexandre Burrows told the Vancouver Sun. "But it is fun when you're playing against a top team in the League. The intensity felt a little but like a playoff game on the ice. Sometimes those shinny games where it's more open and more goals, it might be more fun for the fans. But for us, if we get the win either way, we're happy."

Burrows had reason to be happy after the game. It was his goal early in the third period that turned out to be the game-winner in the Canucks' 2-0 victory. It wasn't the prettiest of goals, but Burrows was in the right place at the right time. Dan Hamhuis' point shot caromed off the end boards right to Burrows, who backhanded it past Blues goalie Brian Elliott.

"With his skill set, he's probably doing that on purpose," Burrows told of Hamhuis' shot. "Both teams were playing well defensively, and we were able to get the bounce going our way in the third and score. We stayed patient and we got a break and got the win."

Who's Hot: Miller has back-to-back shutouts for the first time since Dec. 3-4, 2010. … Daniel Sedin had a goal and 2 assists the last time the Canucks and Sabres played, and in 11 games against them, he has 3 goals and 7 assists.

Injury Report: The Sabres are without forwards Jochen Hecht (concussion) and Cody McCormick (upper body). … The Canucks continue to be without forward Andrew Ebbett (collarbone) and defenseman Keith Ballard (concussion).

Stat Pack:
No player might have benefitted more from the All-Star break than Miller. In 15 games since the break, he's 9-2-3 with a 1.67 goals-against average, .945 save percentage and four shutouts. In 30 games prior to the break, he was 12-15-2 with a 3.07 GAA, .899 save percentage and one shutout.

Puck Drop:
The game will mark a quick reunion for four players. In separate deals at the trade deadline, the Canucks traded rookie center Cody Hodgson and defenseman Alexander Sulzer to the Sabres for rookie power forward Zack Kassian and defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani.

All four players are relishing the new opportunities their new teams are giving them. For Kassian and Gragnani, it's a chance to play meaningful games in the postseason. For Hodgson and Sulzer, it's the chance for increased roles.

The Sabres see Hodgson -- stuck behind Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler in Vancouver -- developing into a No. 1 center. He had 16 goals and 33 points despite averaging just 12:43 of ice time per game.

"We need somebody that can grow and be a No. 1 centerman," coach Lindy Ruff told the Buffalo News. "We really feel he can be that guy."
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