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Mar 19, 2024 2:36 am

Trying to avoid late-season slip-up, Canucks host Sabres

vancouver canucks

The Vancouver Canucks are enjoying a good season, one with many highs and minimal lows as they skated their way to the top of the Pacific Division and, at times, the top spot in the NHL.

Lately, however, the lows are coming more frequently. It’s something the Canucks look to rectify when they host the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday.

Vancouver (42-18-8, 92 points) has lost two in a row after a four-game winning streak and has dropped eight of its past 13 games (5-6-2). On Saturday, the Canucks scored early in the first period, and that was it in a 2-1 loss to the visiting Washington Capitals. Last Wednesday, a 3-0 lead evaporated in a 4-3 overtime setback against the visiting Colorado Avalanche.

“I don’t mind what we’re going through,” Vancouver forward J.T. Miller said. “I know that’s easy to say because we have 42 wins right now. But I don’t mind. It’s a good learning experience. A lot of guys haven’t had to deal with this. That’s why it’s so important.

“You don’t just waltz into the playoffs and turn it on. … We know we’re going to be a playoff team. Like, it is what it is. But we don’t want to be hitting our stride in Game 2 or Game 3 (of the postseason). We want to be hitting it now.”

The Canucks have been one of the NHL’s best home teams this season, going 21-7-4 as the hosts. Lately, though, home ice hasn’t provided the comfort it previously did, as the Canucks are 2-3-2 in their past seven games in Vancouver.

The Tuesday contest will be the fourth of a nine-game homestand for the Canucks.

“We need to embrace the idea of elevating our play (now),” Vancouver defenseman Ian Cole said. “You’re never going to know truly how it feels until you’ve done it, but if we’re able to mentally prepare for that … we can at least have our first step in the right direction before we actually step into the fire.”

The Sabres (33-31-5, 71 points) enter play on Tuesday fresh off a 6-2 road win against the Seattle Kraken on Monday. Buffalo allowed the first goal just 24 seconds in before tying it 25 seconds later, then taking a lead they would never relinquish. It was a bounce-back effort after a 4-1 road loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday.

Buffalo’s Jeff Skinner logged a hat trick against the Kraken, and Tage Thompson and Alex Tuch each had a goal and an assist.

“That’s the reaction you need,” Thompson said. “Obviously we’re in a stretch where every game matters. The more you dwell on things, let losses carry over, it affects you, affects your play, and I thought for us that was something we talked about right after the game in Detroit. … We let it go. And then the same thing after this game (against Seattle).

“We have a big win, and we can’t ride the high. Got to get back to even keel and make sure we’re ready to go against (Vancouver).”

The victory pulled Buffalo, which has won four of its past five, within four points of the Capitals for the second and final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Sabres have been on a roll over the past month, going 9-4-1 in their past 14 games. Buffalo has scored 32 goals in nine games this month.

–Field Level Media

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