No Jack Eichel, no problem.
With their star center's future in limbo because of a herniated disk in his neck and a likely trade, the Buffalo Sabres enter Tuesday night's game with the visiting Vancouver Canucks with a surprising share of first place in the Atlantic Division thanks to opening theseason with consecutive wins for the second time in three seasons.
The Sabres, who finished last in the East Division last season with a 15-34-7 record, including an 18-game losing streak and just 37 points, opened this season with an impressive 5-1 victory over the 2021 Stanley Cup finalist Montreal Canadiens on Thursday and followed that with a 2-1 shootout win over the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday.
Dustin Tokarski needed to make just 20 saves in the victory over Arizona as Buffalo's forechecking bottled up the visiting Coyotes much of the contest. Arttu Ruotsalainen's goal in the second round of the shootout proved to be the game-winner.
"We are harder to play against," said forward Cody Eakin, who scored Buffalo's lone goal in regulation. "We're always playing with speed on the forecheck, the backcheck, and it kind of gets annoying to other teams."
Eakin, one of the original "Golden Misfits" on an expansion Vegas team that reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2018, was quick to point out that there's still a long way to go in the 82-game regular season.
"Not that there's a big number of games that we've showed it, but consistently playing like that, just playing as a team with speed, moving pucks up, funneling back, really just cutting off their rush to before it starts, we're going to be hard to play against," Eakin said.
It's the first time since the 2008-09 season that Buffalo has held the opposition to two goals through the first two games of the season.
Sabres coach Don Granato said he liked the word "annoying" used by Eakin to describe the team's checking.
"I love the fact that Cody said that," Granato said. "If you play hard, that's a good characteristic to have. And if the guys embrace that, I'm all for it."
While Buffalo opens the season with four consecutive home games, Vancouver will play the fourth of six straight road contests to open the campaign.
The Canucks started the season with a 3-2 shootout loss at Edmonton, followed that with a 5-4 shootout victory at Philadelphia on Friday, and then lost 3-1 at Detroit on Saturday.
The Canucks finished with a 41-21 edge in shots on goal in the loss to the Red Wings, including 23-6 in the third period. However, they couldn't solve Thomas Greiss, who finished with 40 saves. Sam Gagner sealed the win with an empty-net goal with 58 seconds to go.
"I thought we played a pretty good game, especially in the third period, and probably deserved a point or two," said Vancouver coach Travis Green. "Their goalie was really good."
After Tuesday night's game with the Sabres, the Canucks will continue their coast-to-coast trip with a Thursday contest in Chicago and then will help the expansion Seattle Kraken open their new Climate Pledge Arena on Saturday night before playing their first home contest against Minnesota on Oct. 26.
--Field Level Media