Buffalo Sabres (7-8-0) vs. Vancouver Canucks (4-9-3)
Puck Drop: 7:00 PM EST | KeyBank Center | Buffalo, NY
Radio: WGR 550
SB Nation Canucks Blog: Nucks Misconduct
Know Your Opponent
Last Game: 5-2 loss @ Bruins
Division Ranking: 7th in Pacific Division
PP: 27.6% (5th)
PK: 61.8% (32nd)
What to Watch
1. Success and Struggles on Special Teams
Both the Sabres and Canucks have similar special teams statistics, in both the good and bad. On the powerplay, Buffalo comes in at an even 25% (8th in the NHL), while Vancouver has been slightly better at 27.6% (5th in the NHL). As for the penalty kill, neither team can say they’ve had success in that area. Buffalo sits at a 73.9% rate (27th in the NHL) compared to Vancouver which is even worse at 61.8% (last in the NHL). Based on these numbers, it’s very easy to see that whoever is able to stay out of the box has a far greater chance to win on Tuesday night.
One player to absolutely keep an eye on (and if you haven’t been already, rethink your life), is Tage Thompson. Thompson has been electric on special teams the last three games, scoring two goals on the powerplay, as well as one shorthanded. If your top player can contribute in all facets of the game like he can, you got yourself a superstar.
2. Goal Scoring Woes
Buffalo started out the year red hot from a scoring standpoint, putting up four or more goals in seven of the first 10 games. While the Sabres have faced challenging opponents during the five games since, they still have had trouble capitalizing on all the opportunities that have come their way. In the last three games, Buffalo was held to just one goal twice, despite outshooting their opponent in both games. The quantity of shots on net seems to be consistent for the Sabres, however the quality of the chances aren’t swinging in their favor.
On top of that, during the last three game stretch, Tage Thompson has scored four out of the six goals Buffalo has tallied during that time. As phenomenal as Tage is, the Sabres cannot simply rely on him to get on the score sheet once or twice every single night (although he’ll certainly try). While in a developmental phase and with Granato tinkering with the lines, Buffalo still has plenty of capable goal scorers that need to start producing on a more consistent basis. Facing off against a Canucks team that’s 30th in the league in GA/GP should be an opportunity to get back on track and end the five-game losing streak.
3. Injury Shuffling
While it could always be worse, the Sabres have been heavily impacted by injuries this early in the season. The unit most impacted so far has been the defense, with Dahlin, Samuelsson, Jokiharju, and Lyubushkin all missing at least one game due to injury. Fortunately for Buffalo, Dahlin and Lyubushkin haven’t missed significant time, and Jokiharju is projected to return to the lineup possibly against the Canucks (as Kale Clague was assigned back to Rochester). Even Samuelsson is trending in the right direction to come back within the next week or two, as he has begun skating with the team once again.
However, as the defense slowly becomes healthy again, the offense begins to take hits. Kyle Okposo missed last game and has been day-to-day, while Jack Quinn is new to the injury report with an undisclosed injury that will sideline him for at least a week. The Sabres luckily have more depth on offense than defense, so it’s not of major concern, but still never ideal as they had to call up Riley Sheahan and Anders Bjork from Rochester to fill the two open spots.
Jeff Skinner - Tage Thompson - Alex Tuch
Peyton Krebs - Casey Mittelstadt - Victor Olofsson
Zemgus Girgensons - Dylan Cozens - JJ Peterka
Rasmus Asplund - Riley Sheahan - Vinnie Hinostroza
Owen Power - Rasmus Dahlin
Jacob Bryson - Henri Jokiharju
Lawrence Pilut - Ilya Lyubushkin
Goaltenders: Craig Anderson (projected starter), Eric Comrie
Scratches: Anders Bjork, Casey Fitzgerald
Injuries: Mattias Samuelsson, Kyle Okposo, Jack Quinn
Conor Garland - Bo Horvat - JT Miller
Ilya Mikheyev - Elias Pettersson - Brock Boeser
Vasily Podkolzin - Sheldon Dries - Nils Hoglander
Dakota Joshua - Nils Aman - Will Lockwood
Oliver Eckman-Larsson - Ethan Bear
Quinn Hughes - Luke Schenn
Kyle Burroughs - Tyler Myers
Goaltenders: Spencer Martin (projected starter), Thatcher Demko
Scratches: Andrei Kuzmenko, Riley Stillman, Jack Rathbone
Injuries: Curtis Lazar, Tanner Pearson, Jack Studnicka, Travis Dermott, Tucker Poolman