A pair of Western Canadian NHL teams travel east tonight as the Vancouver Canucks face the Buffalo Sabres and the Edmonton Oilers battle the New York Islanders.
The Vancouver Canucks will face former teammate Cody Hodgson and the Buffalo Sabres when the clubs meet in tonight's clash at First Niagara Center.
The Sabres were 0-6-1 through the first seven games of 2013-14, but finally picked up a victory in Tuesday's road tilt against the New York Islanders. Tyler Ennis scored the deciding goal during the second round of the shootout to lift the Sabres to a come-from-behind win at Nassau Coliseum.
The 4-3 shootout decision ended a club record-tying streak for futility at the start of the season. The last time Buffalo went seven games into a campaign without a victory was in 1999-2000, when the Sabres recorded five losses and two ties.
The Sabres trailed 3-2 before Marcus Foligno found the back of the net with 2:01 remaining in the third period, and Thomas Vanek and Ennis both converted their shootout opportunities before Ryan Miller officially stopped Buffalo's losing streak with a save on John Tavares.
Ennis and Vanek also scored in regulation, while Miller racked up 41 saves prior to stoning two of New York's three skaters in the shootout.
"It was a great job by our guys," said Miller. "Glad to get that (first win)."
Buffalo now has a chance to earn its first home win of the season, having posted an 0-3-1 mark in Western New York so far. Thursday's contest marks the start of a three-game homestand for the Sabres, who also will welcome Colorado and Boston during the residency.
Sabres forward Hodgson will play his second career game against the Canucks, who drafted him with the 10th overall pick in the 2008 draft before eventually trading him to Buffalo for fellow forward Zack Kassian during the 2011-12 season. Hodgson played at Vancouver on March 3, 2012, less than one week after the trade, but did not record a point in that meeting. Kassian had one goal and one assist in that game, which Buffalo won by a 5-3 score.
Hodgson has one goal and five assists in eight games this season. Kassian, meanwhile, has failed to record a point for the Canucks in two games since returning from a suspension for a high-sticking incident against Edmonton in the preseason.
All told, Hodgson has 19 goals and 48 points in 76 games since the trade, while Kassian has posted eight goals and six assists over 58 contests with the Canucks.
Vancouver had lost two straight regulation games by identical 4-1 scores before ending the brief slide with Tuesday's win in Philadelphia. Ryan Kesler scored a pair of goals, including the deciding tally with 2:25 left in regulation, to help the Canucks open a seven-game road trip on a positive note.
The Canucks trailed the Flyers by a 2-1 count heading into the third period, but Vancouver scored the only two goals of the final 20 minutes to take a 3-2 decision.
Chris Higgins added a goal and one assist and tied the game at 2-2 with 12:29 remaining in the third period, setting up Kesler's game-winner. Henrik Sedin posted two helpers for the Canucks, while Roberto Luongo stopped 20 shots for the win.
"It was a nice one, especially since the couple of guys that scored goals had been working hard all year so far, but hadn't gotten rewarded much," Luongo said. "So it's nice that they both contributed in a huge way there."
Vancouver is 2-1-0 as the visiting team this season and will continue its swing this Saturday in Pittsburgh.
The Sabres have won four of the last five meetings against the Canucks. Buffalo also has claimed three in a row and five of the past six encounters in Western New York.
EDMONTON OILERS vs. NEW YORK ISLANDERS
A couple of teams desperate for a victory will meet Thursday on Long Island when the New York Islanders host the Edmonton Oilers at Nassau Coliseum.
The Islanders are 2-2-2 on the season and enter Thursday riding an 0-2-1 losing streak. New York dropped the first two games of this slide on the road, but couldn't break the trend in Tuesday's home game against the Buffalo Sabres, who recorded a 4-3 shootout win to earn their first victory of the season.
New York led the Sabres 3-2 after Matt Moulson's power-play goal with 11:16 remaining in the third period. However, Marcus Foligno netted the equalizer for Buffalo with 2:01 left in regulation and Tyler Ennis notched the decisive goal for the Sabres in the shootout.
"We put a lot of pucks on net today," said Tavares. "We didn't get the result we wanted. When we have a lead, we have to bear down and find a way to get the job done."
New York is 1-0-2 on home ice this season and is playing the second test of a four-game stand on Thursday.
Edmonton has just one win in seven games (1-5-1) this season and the club will be aiming for its first victory at Nassau Coliseum since 1999 when it takes the ice on Thursday. The Oilers have dropped six in a row on Long Island since last earning a road win against the Isles on Dec. 14, 1999.
New York has taken two of three and eight of the last 11 meetings in this series overall.
The Oilers last played on Tuesday when they dropped a 3-2 regulation decision in Pittsburgh. Evgeni Malkin potted the game-winner on the power play 7:20 into the third period to hand Edmonton's its fourth straight loss.
"It's about wins and losses and we've got to find ways to win games," LaBarbera said. "That's the bottom line. Everyone of us can step it up a bit more and just find a way to get a win and get a good feeling in here."
It's unclear if LaBarbera or the struggling Devan Dubnyk will get the start tonight for the Oilers. Dubnyk entered this season as the club's clear No. 1 goaltender, but he is 0-3-1 with an astronomical 5.43 goals against average and .829 save percentage in four games.
The Oilers are 0-2-1 so far on a six-game road trip and will play the next portion of the swing Saturday in Ottawa.