Kevin Bieksa and the Vancouver Canucks will need to establish earlier leads if they hope to have a winning season.

Kevin Bieksa and the Vancouver Canucks will need to establish earlier leads if they hope to have a winning season.

Preview: Vancouver Canucks take on Hodgson, Ehrhoff in Buffalo

Kevin Bieksa and the Canucks will look to build an early lead against the Sabres, something they've had trouble doing this seasons.



The Canucks will face a couple old friends – Christian Ehrhoff and Cody Hodgson – on Thursday night when Vancouver faces off against the Buffalo Sabres. The game also marks Zack Kassian’s return to northern New York, and Vancouver will look to score first at HSBC Arena, something their haven’t done against any opponent since an opening night loss to San Jose on October 3.

“We’ve played a lot of catch-up hockey,” Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa said on Thursday from Buffalo. “There’s good things to that, knowing you can come back and gaining the confidence when you’re down going into the third period and stay with it.

“We’ve had some good starts… but it’s a matter of putting the puck in the net.”

The obvious player-to-player link between Buffalo and Vancouver would be Cody Hodgson and Zack Kassian, who were traded for each other in a still controversial decision by Canucks GM Mike Gillis (and, to an extent, then-coach Alain Vigneault) in 2012.

But another would be that of Kevin Bieksa and Christian Ehrhoff, two defencemen who were key in Vancouver’s run to the 2011 Stanley Cup Final and went opposite directions in the following weeks.

That offseason, both were free agents.

Bieksa re-signed with Vancouver.

Ehrhoff took $40 million over 10 years and joined Buffalo. The Sabres have since stumbled to two straight playoff-less seasons and are just 1-6-1 this year heading into Thursday’s game.

Hodgson is Buffalo’s leading scorer with 6 points.

Tonight is the first game between Vancouver and Buffalo since March, 2012.

“It’s fun for the fans to see every team come in and it’s fun for the fans to play different teams and not the same all the time,” Ehrhoff said on Thursday. “Obviously, the West has done really well against the East so far (this season), so we’re up for a tough challenge tonight.”

Since entering the NHL together in 1970 – Buffalo taking Gilbert Perreault first, Vancouver nabbing Dale Tallon second – the Sabres and Canucks have embarked on strikingly similar histories.

Buffalo’s been two Stanley Cup Finals, losing both. Vancouver’s been to three, losing all as well.

The Canucks have 45 wins and 44 losses against Buffalo since 1970. The Sabres have 46 wins against the Canucks, to go with 45 losses.

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