Both mired in losing streaks, the Vancouver Canucks visit the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday in a battle of teams desperate for a breakout performance.
The Canucks have lost their last three games while the Sabres have suffered five consecutive losses. Each team lost to the league-leading Boston Bruins over the weekend — Buffalo had a 3-1 setback on home ice Saturday, and Vancouver a 5-2 defeat in Boston on Sunday.
The Sabres held a 1-0 lead until 18:51 of the second period before the Bruins scored three unanswered goals. Tage Thompson scored a tremendous short-handed marker for Buffalo’s only score of the game.
Thompson’s play has been a silver lining throughout the Sabres’ losing streak and the season as a whole. The forward is on a three-game scoring streak and sits among the league leaders with 11 goals.
“Tage is a one-man wrecking crew out there,” Buffalo goalie Craig Anderson said. “When the puck’s on his stick, you know something explosive is going to happen. … He’s leading by example, going out there, working hard, creating stuff. Now it’s up to everybody else to kind of follow suit.”
Vancouver captain Bo Horvat has been even more productive, with 13 goals, yet he was held off the scoresheet Sunday by Boston’s tough defense. The Canucks’ only offense against the Bruins came on the power play, as J.T. Miller and Sheldon Dries scored.
Both the Canucks and Bruins were 2-for-6 on the power play during the penalty-heavy contest. Opponents have scored at least one power-play goal in 15 of Vancouver’s 16 games this season.
“It’s not good enough for us to be that undisciplined,” Canucks defenseman Kyle Burroughs said. “We need to hold ourselves accountable for what we’re doing. … We’ve got to play within the game and just not give them chances like that.”
The Sabres have a similar problem. Vancouver and Buffalo have each been strong on the power play this season, yet both are near the bottom of the NHL in penalty-kill percentage.
Anderson stopped 27 of 30 shots against Boston, and the veteran goaltender has an impressive 2.40 goals-against average over five starts. Since the Sabres also play Wednesday against the Ottawa Senators, Anderson and Eric Comrie figure to split the back-to-back starts in some order.
Spencer Martin and Thatcher Demko have been alternating games over the last few weeks as the Canucks have been looking for consistency in net. Since Demko started on Sunday, Martin will likely get the nod against Buffalo.
Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes has 13 assists over his last 10 games played. It is officially only a seven-game points streak for Hughes, as his 10-game stretch was broken up by an injury absence.
Sabres captain Kyle Okposo and Canucks forward Vasili Podkolzin are both questionable for Tuesday’s lineup. Okposo missed Buffalo’s last game due to general soreness, while Podkolzin left Sunday’s game with an undisclosed injury.
The Sabres won the first meeting of the season between the two teams. Victor Olofsson recorded two goals and an assist in Buffalo’s 5-1 win in Vancouver on Oct. 22.
–Field Level Media