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Buffalo Takes the Vibes to Vancouver

The Sabres face a Canucks squad beset with bad luck. Go ahead, it’s okay to have higher expectations for Buffalo heading into the matchup.

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NHL: Buffalo Sabres at Edmonton Oilers Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

The #SabresAfterDark road trip continues, as the team heads to Vancouver for the Canucks’ home opener. Let’s get weird.

Game 5

Buffalo Sabres (3-1-0) vs. Vancouver Canucks (0-3-2)

Puck Drop: 10:00 p.m. ET | Rogers Arena | Vancouver, BC

TV: MSG

SBN Canucks Blog: Nucks Misconduct

Know Your Opponent

Vancouver Canucks (0-3-2)

Last Game: OT Loss to the Minnesota Wild, 4-3

Division Standings: No. 7 of 8, Pacific Division

PP: No. 25 (10.5%)

PK: No. 31 (58.8%)

What to Watch

  • Where the Sabres are vibing, the Canucks, well...

The Canucks are off to a five game non-winning streak to start the season. Starting the season on a five-game road trip is difficult, to be sure, but the Canucks can’t seem to figure anything out.

As Iain McIntyre of Sportsnet noted about first-line center J.T. Miller:

The 29-year-old center, the emotional leader and beating heart of the Canucks, has one even-strength point this season, has been on the ice for 13 of 22 goals surrendered in all situations, and Miller’s five-game “peak” in expected-goals-for (a measure of puck possession and scoring chances at five-on-five) is just 36 per cent.

The problems aren’t exclusive to Miller, but more to say the Canucks aren’t meshing, from the top down. You’d hope the return home would help Miller, head coach Bruce Boudreau and the entire team get its stuff together.

I’ll let our colleagues at Nucks Misconduct say what I was thinking, more or less:

This team is a mess. They can’t provide any sustained pressure. They can’t defend leads, and they can’t push back, both offensively and physically. They’re not even a prototypical Bruce Boudreau team right now. I don’t know what the hell they are, but this is a team that needs a major shake up now, or else they need to just shut it down and tank this season to get North Vancouver native Connor Bedard in the 2023 Entry Draft. That, of course, assumes that even if the Canucks finished last, that they could actually win the draft lottery, and we all know this team’s history with lotteries.

Feel this! Been there! Sorry, friends.

  • New guys and some roster shuffling.

Henri Jokiharju was placed on injured reserve to make way for Lawrence Pilut after he was called up from Rochester. This is the scenario the Sabres signed him for — he’s NHL-ready but was open to a two-way deal to be back in the organization. Definitely unfortunate circumstances for the call-up, but I’m sure exciting for Pilut to potentially see action soon.

While Pilut won’t be playing tonight, Ilya Lyubushkin will — he’s cleared to play again and will line up with Owen Power. Personally, I’m excited to see how that pair looks together. Peyton Krebs is also scratched in favor of Jack Quinn, who’ll skate on the fourth line with Kyle Okposo and Zemgus Girgensons. (Vinnie Hinostroza, for his part, earned the right to stay in the lineup after a solid showing in Calgary. Love to see it.)

For Vancouver, defensive prospect Jack Rathbone will make his start against the Sabres.

  • It’s a beautiful night to get the power play figured out.

The Canucks, as I mentioned, are floundering basically everywhere. There’s no one place this team is good. In particular, though, the hope — or perhaps the expectation — should be that the Sabres can solve power play concerns. After all, they’re somehow playing a penalty kill worse than their pretty lackluster power play.

  • I have higher expectations than before? This is a weird feeling?

Overall, we’re at a point with the Sabres where we’re allowed to raise our collective bar a touch, especially with an inferior opponent like the Canucks. If there’s finally something really worthwhile happening for the Sabres, they should make easy work of a struggling opponent like the Canucks. Letting them hang around will also tell fans what to expect, but in the opposite direction — maybe the Sabres really aren’t all that if they drop this game against the Canucks.

Lineup

Sabres

Forwards

Jeff Skinner - Tage Thompson - Alex Tuch

Vinnie Hinostroza - Dylan Cozens - JJ Peterka

Rasmus Asplund - Casey Mittlestadt - Victor Olofsson

Jack Quinn - Zemgus Girgensons - Kyle Okposo

Defense

Mattias Samuelsson - Rasmus Dahlin

Owen Power - Ilya Lyubushkin

Jacob Bryson - Casey Fitzgerald

Goal: Craig Anderson (projected starter), Eric Comrie

Scratches: Peyton Krebs, Lawrence Pilut, Riley Sheahan

Injuries: Henri Jokiharju (moved to IR)

Vancouver Canucks

Forwards

Conor Garland - J.T. Miller - Ilya Mikheyev

Vasily Podkolzin - Elias Pettersson - Andrew Kuzmenko

Tanner Pearson - Bo Horvat - Brock Boeser

Dakota Joshua - Nils Aman - Curtis Lazar

Defense

Quinn Hughes - Luke Schenn

Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Tyler Myers

Jack Rathbone - Kyle Burroughs

Goal: Thatcher Demko (projected starter), Spencer Martin

Scratches: Noah Juulsen

Injuries: Travis Dermott, Tucker Poolman, Riley Stillman,