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Happy home opener day!
Or will it be another tough night to swallow for Canucks fans?
The Buffalo Sabres are in town for the big Saturday night affair, and they have been riding a pretty good wave through their first four games of the season. The Sabres come into Saturday night’s game with a 3-1-0 record with back-to-back wins over the Alberta teams, where they outscored the Oilers and Flames by a two-to-one count of 10-5.
Alex Tuch is leading the way for the Sabres with five goals in his first four games, while defenceman Rasmus Dahlin has been on a heater of his own with a goal in each of the Sabres’ first four games. Bruce Boudreau noted that he is aware of how good Tuch can be as he coached him back in Minnesota.
We saw the Canucks skate ahead of their matchup against the Sabres this morning and have a few takeaways from what we saw and heard at the rink today.
What we saw
- There weren’t any line rushes as the team skated for a short practice and didn’t wear coloured jerseys to indicate line combinations. It looked more like it was just about getting some ice under you and keeping the legs fresh ahead of a big game at Rogers Arena.
- We didn’t see Quinn Hughes, as he was the only surprising absent player from Canucks practice. Boudreau later confirmed that Hughes will be a game-time decision.
- One player who looks like they are going to draw into the lineup is Jack Rathbone. Boudreau wouldn’t confirm if it was going to be the season debut for the 23-year-old defenceman but Conor Garland did mention that he and Rathbone will hopefully be on a power play unit together and mentioned that Rathbone is kind of like a little brother to him and that Garland often has him over for dinners.
- Just as the skate concluded, the Canucks made a transaction, sending Nils Höglander down to the AHL while simultaneously calling up Noah Juulsen. Juulsen played in the AHL on Friday night, and he played a lot. It seems like he will be the seventh or eighth defenceman in this game, depending on if Hughes is in the lineup or not.
- Boudreau confirmed that it was between Höglander and Vasily Podkolzin to be sent down because they are on their entry-level contracts and do not require waivers.
- Tucker Poolman skated with the Canucks and will be a game-time decision for the team.
What was said
Boudreau commented on his message to Rathbone, who looks like he will get into the lineup tonight.
“My message is always, just be you,” said Boudreau. “Do what you [did to] get here. Just play the game the way you can play and that usually alleviates a little bit for the player’s mindset.”
Rathbone was asked about just wanting to play his game instead of answering questions about his defence.
“That’s been kind of the MO coming into this year,” said Rathbone.
“I hear that a lot. In terms of when I get a mic in front of my face, I love talking about my defensive game,” he said with a smirk.
“But no, I know those questions are coming in. I took a lot of steps last year to hopefully have those questions answered. But I think just coming into tonight, just be able to play with some talented players and just do my thing.”
When asked about the fourth line having success and being an energy line that could build off the crowd noise, Boudreau gave an interesting answer that could impact the lines tonight. He mentioned that the fourth line could build off of the crowd “if the line stays the same. There might be a move there too, who knows”.
Well, obviously, Boudreau knows!
We will have to wait for the pregame to see what the lines are going to look like. The Canucks didn’t show line rushes at morning skate and there should be a close eye kept out for a Hughes appearance.
This Canucks team is going to need all of their horses to battle up against a strong Sabres team that is feeling good about themselves as they come into a big Saturday night rumble with the Canucks.
Puck drop is at 7 pm Pacific tonight.