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GAME DAY PREVIEW- GAME FOUR: Canucks @ Buffalo- Oct 19, 2021

It’s off to Upstate New York for the fourth of six on the road to start the season as the Canucks take on the surprising Sabres.

Vancouver Canucks v Buffalo Sabres Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images

VANCOUVER CANUCKS (1-1-1) vs BUFFALO SABRES (2-0-0)

KEYBANK CENTER, BUFFALO, NY

4:00PM PST

TV: SPORTSNET 360. RADIO: SPORTSNET 650

OPPOSING BLOG: DIE BY THE BLADE

After a disappointing night in Detroit (I wonder how often something like that gets said?), it’s on to Buffalo and a match against the Canucks expansion cousins and brothers in shared misery, the Buffalo Sabres.

While it’s insanely early to think that it’s any indicator of how their year will go, you can’t help but respect the fact that with all the chaos surrounding this franchise, and their top player not in the lineup, they’ve been able to start the season with two straight wins. And while it’s a great story, it needs to end tonight.

So what should we make of the Canucks thus far? I think the most surprising thing we’ve seen in the first three games is a stronger effort defensively, and that is quite likely a direct result of new Canucks assistant coach Brad Shaw’s influence. The shutdown pairing of Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Tyler Myers has been effective, and Jack Rathbone’s play has been getting stronger with each passing game. At the end of the day, there’s still gonna be nights like the one in Detroit, and the previous one in Philadelphia. They need to be able to seal the deal on games like those. It’ll come, but we may not be there just yet.

Anyway, back to tonight’s game. To get a read on what’s going on with the Sabres and their surprising start to the season amidst a most trying set of circumstances, we spoke with Die By The Blade’s Melissa Burgess to get us up to speed on the Sabres:

1. Given that no one saw the Sabres getting off to this kind of start, what’s the reaction been like locally?

People are definitely surprised. I’d say “cautious, but optimistic.” The crowds have been super small the first two games, and I’d expect the same for Tuesday’s game against Vancouver. I think it’s going to take more than a few games to convince people this is for real, but the players really seem to be buying in on the culture and on Don Granato’s style.

2. What’s the latest you’ve been hearing about Jack Eichel’s status?

Zilch! No, I’m kidding. The latest I’ve heard, there are five teams still in on Eichel - all five of whom will allow him to have the artificial disc surgery that he wants. It’s such an interesting situation because the timeline is still pretty long. Once a deal *is* made, he’s got to have the surgery and recover for something like six weeks before he can even get on the ice. Then there’s a lengthy recovery period before he’ll be ready for game action, so you’re really talking several months before he’s in your lineup.

3. What kind of effect will the team’s strong start have on the efforts to move Eichel?

If anything, maybe it takes some of the pressure off Kevyn Adams. Adams has been adamant that it’s all in the team’s hands, and the fact that they’ve had a strong start means maybe they’re able to think more strategically and really figure out what the best deal is. There’s no rush to get something back to fit into the lineup in the immediate.

4. For those of us that don’t get to see the Sabres that often, who should we keep an eye out for tonight?

It’s early, but I’ve liked what I’ve seen from Vinnie Hinostroza so far. I think he’s going to be an underrated great addition to the team. Some fans might know Dylan Cozens since he was such a high draft pick, or Rasmus Dahlin, but another one to keep an eye on is Tage Thompson. He’s been used as a center recently and I think the Sabres are putting him in a good position to flourish.

5. Though it’s tough with so much riding on what happens with Eichel, but what are your expectations for this season?

The best part about a season like this: I don’t think we have expectations at this point. After so many rough years, it’s kind of nice to just not expect anything and then be pleasantly surprised if things go well. Many people have anticipated the Sabres being absolutely horrid this season - bottom of the barrel, maybe even the first team in NHL history to finish 32nd. Realistically, they’re not going to be fantastic, they’re not going to win every game, but I think we’ll see some bright spots like the first two games over the course of the season and a 20-something place finish.

Thanks to Melissa for taking the time to chat with us!

LINEUPS

Courtesy of nhl.com, here’s what we will likely see from these teams tonight:

Canucks projected lineup

Nils HoglanderElias PetterssonBrock Boeser

Tanner PearsonBo HorvatConor Garland

Justin DowlingJ.T. MillerVasily Podkolzin

Matthew HighmoreJason DickinsonJuho Lammikko

Oliver Ekman-LarssonTyler Myers

Quinn HughesTucker Poolman

Jack RathboneKyle Burroughs

Jaroslav Halak

Thatcher Demko

Scratched: Alex Chiasson, Nic Petan, Brad Hunt, Luke Schenn

Injured: Brandon Sutter (illness), Tyler Motte (upper body), Brady Keeper (leg)

Sabres projected lineup

Jeff SkinnerDylan CozensVinnie Hinostroza

Rasmus AsplundTage ThompsonVictor Olofsson

Anders BjorkArttu RuotsalainenDrake Caggiula

Zemgus GirgensonsCody EakinKyle Okposo

Rasmus DahlinWill Butcher

Jacob BrysonColin Miller

Robert HaggMark Pysyk

Craig Anderson

Dustin Tokarski

Scratched: John Hayden, Christian Wolanin

Injured: Casey Mittelstadt (upper body), Henri Jokiharju (lower body)

The good news for the Canucks is that the return of Brock Boeser is nearly upon us. While I appreciate Alex Chiasson’s work ethic over the past three games, it would be nice to have our top 6 back and ready to roll tonight.

Thatcher Demko will get the start for the Canucks tonight, Boeser is a game time decision, and you can expect either Luke Schenn or Brad Hunt to draw in tonight. No word yet on who will come out.

GAME DAY CHATTER

Pearson makes a good point here. While this team may prove to better than last season, they’re not going to get anywhere constantly playing from behind.

GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN

The road trip continues, and it got me thinking about some of those great driving tunes everyone needs for a long drive. We’re gonna go back to the ‘Thrash Zone’ album for a little D.R.I. and ‘Beneath The Wheel’. Enjoy the game, Go Canucks Go and all that...