Buffalo - February 26, 2015 -
Who: Vancouver Canucks
Where: First Niagra Center, Buffalo, NY
Know thine enemy: Despite battling injuries of late, the Canucks are still hot having won 7 of their last 10 as well as their past 2. Somehow, they’re doing this without goalie Ryan Miller and defensemen Alexander Edler, Kevin Beiksa, Christopher Tanev and Frank Corrado.
Taking over for Miller is eddie Lack, who has stopped 67 of 68 shots since taking over for Miller. He’s just 7-7-2 on the year, but his .921 save percentage is more than solid. He doesn’t need to be spectacular (Miller boasts a higher goals against average and a lower save percentage), just solid.
Offensively, the team is top-heavy but the trio leading the way is quite good. The Sedins look like themselves again, though both have their playmaking hats on. Henrik leads the team with 43 assists and 55 points, but Daniel is right behind him with 40 assists and 53 points. The benefactor in all of this? Radim Vrbata, who leads the Canucks with 22 goals to this point. The trio has far and away been the biggest offensive threats the team possess, though they aren’t exactly barren past those three. Four other Canucks have at least 10 goals at this point.
About the Sabres: The Sabres are on a bah-God winning-streak! Well, they won their last game, anyway. Still, Tuesday night’s game didn’t come without losses: Tyler Ennis and Zemgus Girgensons left the game with injuries. Ennis may miss a few days with a lower-body injury while Girgensons, who took a James Wisniewski slapshot off the foot, may be done for the year. The team is already depleted, missing Josh Gorges for the year and Mike Weber for the next two weeks.
Those are huge losses considering those are the two leading scorers on the team. Chris Stewart has been playing much better of late for the Sabres, no doubt hoping to parlay that into a new home come deadline Tuesday.
Defensively, it’s as thin as it gets: Andrej Meszaros and Andre Benoit are being leaned on more than usual thanks to the losses on defense. Youngsters Mark Pysyk and Jake McCabe saw extensive action on Tuesday night and should see the same going forward.
In net, it’ll be Neuvirth yet again. He was solid in Columbus, stopping 40+ shots. He doesn’t have the consistency that Enroth does, but he’s more than capable of turning in a game-stealing performance here and there.
The last time these two met: Back on January 30th, the two met in Vancouver where it looked like a game through 20 minutes. A pair of power play goals would give the Canucks the two-goal advantage through the midway point, but Stewart chipped in a pair of power play goals to keep it close heading into the third. Chris Higgins effectively ended it five and a half minutes in to give the Canucks the win.
The part where I predict things: If it weren’t for a horrific effort in net by Anton Forsberg in Columbus on Tuesday, the team would be riding a three-game losing-streak. They were already horribly bad before losing their top two scorers and now the injuries are mounting. There is no way this ends well for the Sabres, facing a Canucks team that will need every point to hold onto the second spot in the Pacific.
Score: 4-1 Canucks
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