The Buffalo Sabres are probably happy their longest road trip of the season is about to end. The red-hot Vancouver Canucks, meanwhile, are trying to make the most of their final homestand before the longest string of road games in NHL history.
With their 14-game road swing surrounding the Olympic break looming, the Canucks go for a fifth straight win Monday night against the Sabres, who have dropped three straight overall and have not won in Vancouver in more than 10 years.
While their lead in the Northeast Division remains secure, the Sabres (30-13-7) have stumbled during the second half of their seven-game trip, losing three straight games in California at Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose.
A fourth straight defeat would match the longest skid of the season for Buffalo, which outshot the Sharks 40-24 but lost 5-2 on Saturday night.
“They didn’t miss on their opportunities,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. “I think we doubled up on our opportunities all night. We were disappointed that we didn’t take advantage of them and we made a couple of mistakes.”
Standout goalie Ryan Miller(notes), who will lead the United States’ Olympic team in Vancouver next month, stopped 19 of 23 shots, allowing four or more goals for just the second time in his last 27 appearances.
Miller has made one previous appearance at GM Place, giving up three goals on 26 shots in a 4-1 loss on Jan. 19, 2006 - Buffalo’s only visit since the NHL lockout in 2004-05. The Sabres haven’t won in Vancouver since Feb. 28, 1999, going 0-4-0 with a tie in their last five trips.
Despite Buffalo’s recent struggles overall, center Tim Connolly(notes) extended his point streak to 15 with a goal at San Jose. He has seven goals and 17 assists during the streak, ranking among the league’s most productive players in the last month.
Perhaps the NHL’s most prolific line in that stretch has been Vancouver’s combination of twins Henrik and Daniel Sedin(notes) and Alex Burrows(notes). In their last 15 games, that trio has combined for 28 goals and 49 assists.
Each player had three points in a 5-1 win over Chicago on Saturday night as the Canucks (31-18-2) improved to 15-4-2 in their last 21 games and matched their season-best with a fourth straight win. They last won five in a row March 1-9, 2007.
Their biggest star against the Blackhawks, however, may have been Roberto Luongo(notes), who made a season-high 43 saves to help out a banged-up defensive corps that was lacking injured regulars Sami Salo(notes), Willie Mitchell(notes) and Kevin Bieksa(notes).
“Roberto knew we were short on D personnel,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. “I’m sure he knew that he needed his ‘A’ game tonight on the ice, and that’s what we got.”
“They did a great job,” Luongo said. “Obviously, we’re missing some of our best D-men, and guys that are usually second or third pairing played lots of minutes. Guys like Baumer and Romer, those guys played awesome.”
Vancouver has been especially tough at home, going 7-1-1 in its last nine and 21-7-1 overall at GM Place. But with the Olympics set to move in, the Canucks will embark on a historically long stretch of road games after hosting St. Louis on Wednesday.
They will play eight road games before the Olympics and six more after, with their next home game set for March 13 against Ottawa.