It’s been awhile, but the Vancouver Canucks are finally back in Buffalo.
The Buffalo Sabres will host the Canucks at First Niagara Center for the first time since Nov. 15, 2010. Buffalo won that game 4-3 thanks to a goal by Tyler Myers in overtime.
Sabres defenseman Christian Ehrhoff said he’s looking forward to facing his old team even though there are many new faces on the other side, including Canucks coach John Tortorella. Ehrhoff played two seasons in Vancouver before signing with the Sabres in the summer of 2011.
“It’s going to be fun to see the guys, but they have a new coaching staff, so it’s going to be a totally different look playing against them and I’m anxious to get out there tonight,” he said.
The Sabres won the last meeting between the two clubs by a score of 5-3 on March 3, 2012 in Vancouver. The Canucks haven’t won in Buffalo since Feb. 7, 2003.
Cody Hodgson, another former Canuck, did not partake in the morning skate, but will play Thursday. A lower-body injury has caused him to take a few maintenance days in lieu of practicing with the team. Hodgson hasn’t missed any game action.
“He’s actually real close [to 100 percent]. We’re actually probably in the last week of it right now,” Rolston said. “He’s playing through some things, but he’ll be in the lineup tonight.”
The coaching staff moved Marcus Foligno to center on Tuesday and he’ll remain there for the time being. His line with wings Tyler Ennis and Drew Stafford produced two goals against the Islanders. He’ll likely see work against Henrik Sedin on Thursday.
“We have faith that Marcus can handle those situations,” Rolston said. “Again, it offers us a big centerman that can handle some of the bigger guys in the League, whether it’s the Sedins or [John] Tavares the other night. You’ve got big guys like [Eric] Staal, where you need that big body in there, a big centerman. But we have confidence in him.”
Ryan Miller was the first goaltender off the ice in practice and is expected to start in net.
Nikita Zadorov also skated with the team, but remains on the injured non-roster list. Rolston said that Zadorov is still working his way back from a finger injury sustained in the preseason and a decision will not have to be made on whether or not to send him back to the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League until the team is healthier.
Patrick Kaleta will miss his fourth-straight game due to a 10-game suspension. The NHL suspended him for a hit he put on Columbus defenseman Jack Johnson on Oct. 10. Kaleta cannot play even during an appeal process.
The Sabres will be without left wing Zemgus Girgensons as well. A shot deflected up and hit him in the face in the first period on Tuesday, leaving his left eye bruised and swollen. He joined the team on the ice midway through the morning skate on Thursday while wearing a full cage on his helmet. Rolston hopes Girgensons will be ready to play on Saturday against Colorado.
“It’s actually gotten better. He’s got a little slit there he can see out of, but he won’t be in tonight … It’s come a long way over a short period of time,” Rolston said.
After playing three games in four nights, the Sabres had a mandatory day off on Wednesday. Rolston said that the schedule has made it difficult to get practices in and that it reminds him a lot of what the team went through during the lockout-shortened season last year.
“In those situations, we actually try to bring the energy back to the rink because after a day off usually, whether it’s passing or just getting the cobwebs out after a day off, so these are treated like a mini-practice you have to have out there,” he said.
“Now, like it was last year, a lot of it is trying to find the time to make adjustments and teach, but also manage energy with the game schedule that you have. It’s important that the guys have their energy during the games.”
26 Thomas Vanek – 19 Cody Hodgson – 9 Steve Ott
63 Tyler Ennis – 82 Marcus Foligno – 21 Drew Stafford
12 Kevin Porter – 22 Johan Larsson – 65 Brian Flynn
32 John Scott – 25 Mikhail Grigorenko – 8 Cody McCormick
10 Christian Ehrhoff – 3 Mark Pysyk
20 Henrik Tallinder – 57 Tyler Myers
6 Mike Weber – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
30 Ryan Miller
1 Jhonas Enroth
Scratched: 4 Jamie McBain, 28 Zemgus Girgensons
Suspended: 36 Patrick Kaleta