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Canucks Report: Friendships aside with Sabres in town

Saturday, 03.03.2012 / 6:06 PM / News
By Karen Sum
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Canucks Report: Friendships aside with Sabres in town
March 3, 2012

FRIENDSHIPS ASIDE

In case you didn't hear, the Buffalo Sabres are in town tonight to take on the Canucks.

Under normal circumstances, it's a big deal because the Sabres and Canucks only meet once a year. But this year, there is even more talk because of the recent events made at the trade deadline just his past Monday.

Zack Kassian and Marc-André Gragnani play against their former team for the first time since being traded. Both were drafted by Buffalo and never been on this side of the game before but are looking forward taking on the challenge and there's no question where their allegiances lie.

"It's going to be a lot of fun," said Kassian. "I got to see a couple of the guys last night for dinner. I've built a lot of good friendships over there but it's awesome to be in Vancouver and I'm excited to get the game going."

"I have a lot of friends on that team but once the puck drops, you've got to focus on the two points," said Gragnani.

"I want to play good for Vancouver," adds Gragnani. "I don't want to play good to proving [anything] to Buffalo. Like I said, Buffalo's in the past and I'm concentrating on being a Canuck now."

Kassian's played in the last two games with the Canucks and had four hits and four shots in 11:04 of ice time Thursday against the Blues. Gragnani made his Canuck debut Thursday with 15:38 time on ice including some key minutes on the powerplay.

THREE COME BACK

The Sabres come into Vancouver with three former Canucks making their return to Rogers Arena with their new team. Cody Hodgson, Alex Sulzer, and Christian Ehrhoff stepped onto the ice for the first time with the Sabres for their morning skate Saturday.

"It's definitely a different feeling," said Hodgson. "I haven't gotten dressed in this room since training camp so it's a different feeling so it should be a good night tonight and I'm looking forward to it."

"I'm very excited," said Ehrhoff, who signed with the Sabres in the off-season after playing two seasons in Vancouver. I had a great couple years here so I'm very excited to be back and see some of my old friends and play in front of the crowd."

"It's obviously really exciting, especially in Vancouver," Sulzer says. "I'm pumped to play against the boys."

While those players are getting a lot of attention tonight from the media, Ryan Miller is 5-0-2 in his last seven starts and despite Buffalo's position in the standings, they aren't going to be easy to beat.

"Those are two real good players for Buffalo," said Coach Alain Vigneault. "Right now, anybody who's seen Buffalo play lately, would have more of a game plan to try to beat their goaltender - he's been phenomenal, especially in the last couple of games. We know here in Vancouver, as well as anywhere in the NHL, when you get that grade A goaltending, it just gives confidence to the rest of the group and right now, he's definitely on top of his game."

This is also the first meeting of Luongo and Miller between the pipes since the 2010 Olympic gold medal game.

Luongo is 8-6-2 all-time against the Sabres with a 1.99 GAA and .937 goals against in 16 games. Miller is 3-2-0 in his career against the Canucks with a 2.74 GAA .902 save percentage.

The Sabres won in the teams' only game last year in Buffalo. Miller made 36 saves in a 4-3 overtime win, where Tyler Myers scored the winner against Cory Schneider.

QUOTABLES

"I've played against [Hodgson] in junior hockey. He's a great player, he has a high skill level, he's going to be a good player for Buffalo but head-to-head matchup, I'm going to play the same way, I've played for my whole life and I'm sure he's going to do the same. I think the main thing here is that was come away here with the two points." -Zack Kassian on facing Hodgson.

"I'm a bit more worried about their superstar, Cody [Hodgson]. He'll be amped up so we've got to be ready to play him and make sure he doesn't get their team going." - Roberto Luongo's thoughts on facing Ryan Miller.

"He's got a huge head but apart from that, he's obviously got a lot of skill, good vision, and his quick release. we've got to make sure we're aware of him and don't want to give him too much time and space there." -Roberto Luongo on Hodgson's return.

"I think I did good. I felt I did a lot of good things. Obviously, it's my first game in about a month so timing's a little off on a couple of things but I think I can be a lot better tonight." -Marc-Andre Gragnani on his play last game.

"It's only been two games and one practice but we definitely like what we see and what our scouts have told us is exactly what we've seen so far. Zack is a strong skater, a different skill set than Cody but a real strong skill set from what we can understand and what we've seen as far as finishing checks and can bring that physical dimension. Marc-Andre, same thing. Our scouts thought that the young man has a tremendous amount of offensive upside as far as moving the puck and joining the rush and being able to help out on the powerplay and that's what we've seen so far. They're two young players like any young player has tremendous amount of potential and we've just got to work at it to develop it." -Vigneault's assessment of the two newest players.

"Yeah, they like to make fun of me for that but hopefully, it'll be put to good use tonight." - Cody Hodgson's response to Luongo's comment.