SABRES (30-13-7) AT CANUCKS (31-18-2)
GAME TIME: 7:00 PST
TV: Sportsnet Pacific
SEASON SERIES: 0-0
LAST MEETING: October 17, 2008: Sabres 5 Canucks 2
THE UNFAMILIAR ENEMY: Die By The Blade
UPDATE (12:00): Dan Murphy tweeted that the Canucks are confirming that Willie Mitchell suffered a concussion, but also say that he is close to being free of its symptoms. Good news!
For the record, the "Death To The Buffaslug" image was not done by me. Back in September of 2006 a site called Ingmar Bergman Shoots And Scores found it on a hockey forum. There are more images there. Too bad Ingmar packed it in. That was one of the first hockey "blogs" that I frequently visited. Photoshop-comedic brilliance. Moving on...
From my count, this is only the 4th time since January 2006 that these teams have played each other. The Canucks lost 2 of those games, with Ales Kotalik being a thorn in our side in one way or another in the losses. Roberto Luongo was not in goal for any of those games. It was Alex Auld in 2006, Dany Sabourin in 2007, Curtis Sanford in 2008. So mostly throw away those useless facts because Luongo will play against Buffalo and Kotalik is rotting away somewhere in New York. The January 2006 matchup was the last time Buffalo played at GM Place, where the Canucks won 4-1.
What factoid that you can't toss is that Ryan Miller is an awesome goaltender, and was in goal for both of those Sabres wins. With Luongo's stone job against the Hawks Saturday night, both he and Miller are tied for 3rd in the NHL in wins. Luongo has started in one more game than Miller. Over those games Miller has faced 80 more shots, saved 90 more than Lou and has 3 more shutouts. His .934 save percentage is tops in the NHL. Not bad for a lanky goalie who the Sabres stole in the 5th round in the 1999 draft.
Lindy Ruff has been coaching the Sabres since July 1997. No other coach in the NHL has a tenure that long. The trust between GM Darcy Regier and Ruff and his players is a thing of beauty for it to last this long. Ruff has had only 1 losing season and that was amidst team bankruptcy and turmoil in ownership. The Sabres continually lost star players to free agency, yet Ruff got / gets his thinned-out lineups to compete regardless. They are a model for "building from within."
This season Buffalo is tops in their division by 7 points and 3rd in the Eastern Conference. They are finally getting mileage out of oft-injured Tim Connolly, who leads the team with 13 goals and 47 points in 50 games. He hasn't played this many games since the 2005-06 season, (mostly due to concussions) where he was finally starting to show his offensive upside. He is currently on a 15 game point streak, with 7 goals and 15 assists in that span. Wack Fact: Connolly (along with Taylor Pyatt) was traded to the Sabres in 2001 in exchange for Michael Peca. Beyond Connolly, there are here are the Sabres' scoring leaders.
Who is rolling for Buffalo in their last 5 games, in which they have lost 4?
-Tim Connolly has 2 goals and 7 assists
-Jason Pominville has 3 goals and 5 assists
-Thomas Vanek has 2 goals and 4 assists
-Jochen (what the) Hecht has 2 goals and 3 assists
-Derek Roy has a disappointing 2 assists.
Vancouver is the final stop for the Sabres on their 7 game road trip where they are currently 2-2-2.
Right now I'm not as concerned about the loss of Willie Mitchell and Sami Salo the way the replacements have been playing. Thank god for depth on D.
GOALS PER GAME: Canucks 3rd, Sabres 11th
LEAST GOALS AGAINST PER GAME: Sabres 4th, Canucks 6th
5 ON 5: Canucks 3rd, Sabres 8th
POWER PLAY: Canucks 4th, Sabres 16th
PENALTY KILL: Sabres 3rd, Canucks 13th
SHOTS PER GAME: Sabres 9th, Canucks 17th
LEAST SHOTS AGAINST PER GAME: Canucks 7th, Sabres 24th. (Remember the Miller stats above?)
LEAST PIM's PER GAME: Sabres 7th, Canucks 28th
PLUS / MINUS: Canucks 4th, Sabres 8th.
WINNING % WHEN SCORING 1st: Both teams tied for 6th
WINNING % WHEN LEADING AFTER 1: Canucks 4th, Sabres 9th
WINNING % WHEN LEADING AFTER 2: Sabres 1st (have not lost a game yet), Canucks 2nd.
FACEOFFS: Canucks 7th, Sabres 26th
These 2 teams match up really well. I'm not sure what kind of feeling-out process we'll see here, but it should be an aggressive up-tempo game, as both teams play about the same style of hockey.
Here are some YouTube clips to get you into the groove:
-Canucks-Sabres Highlights, January 2007. That went to a shootout. Check out the Sabourin save on Briere. Sweet!
-Canucks-Sabres, October 2008. Not pretty.
-BRAWL '98! Trevor Linden fights Rob Ray, Sean Burke vs Steve Shields and more:
-Check out this old school scrap between Bryan McCabe and Matthew Barnaby. A classic!