Vancouver Canucks: Previewing Jack Eichel’s Buffalo Sabres

BUFFALO, NY - FEBRUARY 12: Jack Eichel
BUFFALO, NY - FEBRUARY 12: Jack Eichel /

Following an extremely sloppy performance against the Boston Bruins on Thursday, the Vancouver Canucks have little time to rest as they visit the lowly Buffalo Sabres.

The Vancouver Canucks have been a roller coaster team through its first six games. They looked like a sound defensive team with victories over the Edmonton Oilers and Ottawa Senators. But when they’ve lost, the Canucks have lost quite poorly.

Their latest loss — or debacle if you will — came against the banged-up Boston Bruins. Vancouver fell 6-3, as Erik Gudbranson‘s 5 minute major helped the Bruins pot three goals that put the game out of reach early.

Vancouver fell to 2-3-1 on the season, but their opponents tonight don’t offer much inspiration, either. The Buffalo Sabres are 1-4-2 on the season. New head coach Phil Housley offered optimism for a turnaround, but the Sabres don’t look any better than the team that finished last in the NHL in 2014 and 2015.

Something has to give in this match. Can the Canucks rebound with a big win, or will the equally struggling Sabres pull it off here?

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Vancouver Canucks


2017-18 Record: 2-3-1

2016-17 Record vs Sabres: 2-0-0

Goals For: 15

Goals Against: 20

Injuries: Brendan Gaunce (shoulder, out indefinitely), Alexander Edler (knee, 3-4 weeks), Loui Eriksson (knee, 4-6 weeks)

Who’s on offence

Thomas Vanek: The 33-year-old veteran leads the team in goals (three), and is second in Canucks scoring with four points. Vanek has scored in back-to-back games and has the hot stick. It’ll earn him more ice time and power play opportunity.

Bo Horvat: Finally. Horvat scored on Thursday to score his first point since the season opener against the Edmonton Oilers. Now, can the No. 1 centre start getting on a streak?

Who’s on defence

Chris Tanev: With Edler out, the Canucks defence has taken a major hit. There’s no way Boston scores six goals if he’s on the ice for that one. But Tanev at least offers some reliability and stability as a pure shutdown defenceman.

Other than that, the rest of the blue line doesn’t offer much to be excited about right now.

Who’s in net

Jacob Markstrom: Thanks to a brutal first period showing by Anders Nilsson in Boston, you have to think head coach Travis Green goes back to his old No. 1. Markstrom has more experience and was supposed to be the starter the whole time. It only makes sense to give Nilsson a rest, instead of three games in four nights.

Projected lineup:

Daniel Sedin—Henrik Sedin—Markus Granlund

Sven Baertschi—Alex Burmistrov—Brock Boeser

Sam Gagner—Bo Hovat—Thomas Vanek

Derek Dorsett—Brandon Sutter—Jake Virtanen

Michael Del Zotto—Chris Tanev

Ben Hutton—Erik Gudbranson

Derrick Pouliot—Troy Stecher

Buffalo Sabres


2017-18 Record: 1-4-2

2016-17 Record vs Canucks: 0-2-0

Goals For: 18

Goals Against: 28

Injuries: Jacob Josefson (foot, week-to-week), Zach Bogosian (lower body, week-to-week), Evan Rodrigues (hand, day-to-day), Justin Falk (undisclosed, week-to-week).

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Who’s on offence

Jack Eichel: Though Buffalo’s rebuilding phase has gone slower than expected, Eichel is growing into a world class star. He has nine points in seven games, and will provide a huge test for the Canucks inconsistent blue line.

Evander Kane: The Vancouver native leads Buffalo in scoring with five goals and 10 points. Playing with Eichel has revived Kane’s once troubling career. He’d love to score against his home provincial team that refused to trade for him.

Who’s on defence

Rasmus Ristolainen: The 6-foot-4 blueliner brings a nice combination of speed and toughness to his game. Ristolainen has posted consecutive 40-point seasons, and is one of the better offensive-minded defencemen in the NHL.

Who’s in net

Robin Lehner: He should be good to go for this one. The 26-year-old won a career-best 23 games for the Sabres last season. But his .900 save percentage and 3.14 goals against average should somewhat excite Vancouver’s desperate offence.

Projected lineup:

Evander Kane—Jack Eicel—Jason Pominville

Sam Reinhart—Ryan O’Reilly—Kyle Okposo

Benoit Pouliot—Johan Larsson—Justin Bailey

Jordan Nolan—Zemgus Girgensons—Matt Moulson

Marco Scandella—Rasmus Ristolainen

Nathan Beaulieu—Matt Tennyson

Josh Gorges—Jake McCabe

Keys to victory

Vancouver Canucks

  • The defence is going to have to do something. At least five goals surrendered in two of the last three games? Someone has to step up in Edler’s absence
  • Score on the power play. I don’t need to explain this one.
  • Out of the penalty box, please. Did you see that penalty killing unit in Boston? Man, let’s just say it’s not fun to watch.

Buffalo Sabres

  • Scoring by committee. The Canucks are going to focus on Eichel and Kane. It’d be nice if veterans like Pominville or Moulson could chip in for them.
  • More sound defence. The Sabres are very sloppy in their own end and do very little to help the goalie. Get the puck out. Stop turning it over. It’s simple.
  • Give the puck to Eichel and/or Kane. These guys can score, as the stats show.


Alex Hoegler

2. 12. 3. 104. Final

As inconsistent as the Canucks are, the Sabres are a completely dysfunctional team right now. The Canucks are due for a bounce-back. Vanek pots the winner.

Next: Canucks roundtable: Power play, attendance, more

Scott Rosenhek

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A bounce back game is needed badly. We don’t know if Erik Gudbranson will be suspended for his boarding major, but Travis Green will likely play this one more conservatively. Based on yesterday’s performances, Troy Stecher should be getting a larger share of the minutes.