Familiar faces highlight Sabres-Canucks meeting

The Canucks and Sabres pulled off a trade with each other prior to last Monday's deadline that both hope will improve their chances in the playoffs.

The squads will get a look at former teammates tonight when Western Conference-leading Vancouver plays host to Buffalo.

While the Sabres are still on the outside of the playoff picture, the Canucks were looking to make a move that would fit their style in the postseason. So, they traded young center and fan favorite Cody Hodgson to Buffalo for bigger winger Zack Kassian. The two also swapped defenseman, with Marc-Andre Gragnani going to the Canucks for Alexander Sulzer.

Hodgson, the 22-year-old 10th overall pick of the 2009 draft, had 16 goals with the Canucks this season prior to the trade and has skated in two games with Buffalo. He is a plus-2 in that span while logging nearly 35 minutes of total ice time without a point.

The 21-year-old Kassian, meanwhile, has played in two games with the Canucks as well. The 214-pound 13th selection of the 2009 draft hasn't topped 13 minutes of ice time in either game and is also without a point.

Tonight will also mark Sabres defenseman Christian Ehrhoff's first game versus the Canucks since leaving the franchise as a free agent to sign a 10-year, $40 million deal with the Sabres. Ehrhoff has 26 points in 53 games with Buffalo after logging 94 points in his previous two seasons with the Canucks.

Ehrhoff was one of Buffalo's big acquisitions this offseason as it looks to win a playoff series for the first time since the 2007 postseason. The Sabres come into this matchup riding a season-high seven-game point streak, but still sit four points behind the eighth spot in the East.

Buffalo will look for another big outing from its goaltender tonight after Ryan Miller posted his second straight shutout in a 1-0 win over San Jose. Miller made 39 saves one night after turning aside all 43 shots faced in a 2-0 victory over Anaheim.

Miller logged his fifth shutout of the season, matching a career high, and the 27th of his career. He hasn't given up a goal since the 2:01 mark of an overtime loss to the Rangers on Feb. 25.

"It's an important time of year for us and I'm just happy I can back up the guys," said Miller. "They're the ones who are doing most of the work. We need these wins to get back in the hunt."

Drew Stafford scored the only goal of the game in the first period for the Sabres, who are 5-0-2 since a 7-2 loss in Philadelphia on Feb. 16 and have earned five of a possible six points so far on a five-game road trip that ends in Winnipeg on Monday.

The Canucks are in much better shape as they lead the NHL with 90 points. That is one more than the East-leading Rangers and Central Division front-running Red Wings as well as three points up on the Blues.

Vancouver padded its lead over St. Louis with a 2-0 win over the visiting Blues on Thursday. Roberto Luongo notched his third shutout of the season and 58th of his career with 29 saves.

Alexandre Burrows scored the winner in the third while Chris Higgins added an empty-netter for the Canucks, who were coming off consecutive defeats beyond regulation and have points in 23 of their last 26 games (17-3-6).

"He wins games like that for us all the time," said Higgins about Luongo. "It gives you a lot of confidence knowing we have him back there. You'll see games like that from him more down the stretch."

Vancouver won the opener of a seven-game homestand and has points in nine straight as the host. It is 7-0-2 since its last regulation defeat in Vancouver on Jan. 15.

The Canucks haven't lost to the Sabres at home since Feb. 28, 1999, winning three straight meetings while going 5-0 with a tie in their past six at home in this series.

Buffalo has won three of the past four encounters overall, including a 4-3 overtime win at home in the lone encounter last year.