Tonight’s reunion for Cody Hodgson, Alexander Sulzer, Zack Kassian and Marc-Andre Gragnani isn’t likely to be too friendly. They will face their former teams only five day after the four players were involved in the most surprising trade of the 2012 deadline.
Hodgson has already shown his two-way skill and offensive prowess while centering Tyler Ennis and Drew Stafford. The needs he addressed for the Sabres were exactly what has been missing for most of the season. The same can be said for Kassian in Vancouver. His physical edge is something the Canucks have been looking to build on and he should provide a nice bit of sandpaper for the playoffs.
It is my contention that the culture of the Sabres organization wasn’t suited to bring out the best in Kassian. His bruising style is the reason they drafted him. However, I don’t think the locker room has any veterans who can help young players identify the need to play 100% every night. Additionally, I don’t think the coaching staff preaches the need to finish checks and bury opponents. Considering that, you would see why Kassian’s physical game was often missing. Losing Kassian’s toughness is ok, that is something that can be purchased via free agency.
Tonight is just another arduous matchup for the Sabres. They need every point possible and are on a western road swing against some of the Western Conference’s best teams. Vancouver is playing brilliant hockey and is a deep, talented team. This is a game that will truly test Buffalo’s hot streak.
I’d expect to see Jhonas Enroth in net, for reasons I name later. Vancouver could roll out either of their goaltenders and give the Sabres fits. Buffalo beat Vancouver in OT last season, but Vancouver’s depth is likely to give the Sabres a lot of trouble tonight. For a road trip that has been tough enough, it seems to get more difficult as it continues.
Jhonas Enroth. He almost has to play tonight. Ryan Miller was extremely busy on Wednesday and Thursday. Miller also suffered some sort of injury late in the third period on Thursday. Whatever was hurt (ankle, calf etc.) doesn’t seem to be serious. But I’d play it safe, especially considering the hot streak he has been on. Enroth needs to spell his partner and a day off against a dangerous Canucks team might be just what the doctor ordered for Miller. Not to mention, he would be fully rested for Monday’s pivotal game against Winnipeg. Still, don’t be surprised if Ruff trots Miller out yet again. He still doesn’t seem to have a grasp on rotating his goaltenders.
BUF: Jhonas Enroth
VAN: Roberto Luongo
*no stats for tonight*