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Canucks' Elias Pettersson won't face Rasmus Dahlin, Sabres

VANCOUVER -- Rasmus Dahlin will likely have to wait until next season to face his top competition for the Calder Trophy.

Vancouver Canucks coach Travis Green told reporters following practice Thursday in Rogers Arena that rookie center Elias Pettersson will not play against the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night.

Pettersson, who leads the Canucks with 22 goals among 42 points, has missed the past four games because of a knee injury. He has resumed skating with his teammates, however, he has yet to participate in a full practice. Neither player scored in their only meeting this season when the Sabres won in a shootout, 4-3, on Nov. 10.

The Sabres (24-17-6) will benefit from not having to face one of the league's dynamic scorers, however, Pettersson's absence robs hockey fans of a matchup between the league's two top rookies.

Dahlin, drafted first overall in June, has a five-game point streak, matching the longest such run by an 18-year-old defenseman in NHL history. Only Aaron Ekblad, Bobby Orr and Sabres coach Phil Housley have accomplished that feat.

"He just stays focused on the task and he’s very calm," Housley said of Dahlin following the Sabres' practice Thursday. "For the record, I hope he breaks it tomorrow. He’s been playing really good, solid hockey lately, especially these past five games. Contributing in all areas, whether it’s in the D zone, making that breakout pass, joining the rush, adding to the rush or leading the rush."

Additionally, Dahlin leads all NHL rookie defensemen and is tied for second among all rookies with 26 points. With his 20th point in his 37th game on Dec. 22 against Anaheim, he became the fourth-fastest 18-year-old defenseman in NHL history to reach the 20-point mark, trailing only Housley (28 games), Bourque (30) and Ekblad (34).

With his 21st assist Monday at Edmonton, Dahlin passed Bourque for sixth-most assists by an 18-year-old defenseman in NHL history.

Through 47 games, Dahlin has five goals and a plus-5 rating while averaging 20 minutes, 37 minutes per game.

"It's awesome," Sabres center Jack Eichel said. "It's great to see him having success, but I don't think any of us are surprised by it. You guys see his talent, his ability on the ice. You don't get to see the type of person he is, the type of guy he is. He's great for our locker room. He's so well-liked in here. He's going to get better every day."

Pettersson, a 20-year-old drafted fifth overall in 2017, became the youngest player in Canucks history to be selected for the NHL All-Star Game. He leads all rookies in goals (22), points (42), power-play goals (6), power-play assists (7), power-play points (13), game-winning goals (7) and shooting percentage (27.8).

Prior to his injury, Pettersson was viewed as the odds-man favorite to win the Calder Trophy, but Dahlin is stating his case with consistent play. They also have somewhat of a rivalry. Pettersson and Dahlin were teammates for Sweden at the World Junior Championships the previous two years, and faced each other in the Swedish Hockey League.

"He does some pretty special things out there," Sabres defenseman Zach Bogosian said of Dahlin. "I always joke around and say as his D partner I have the best seat in the house. ... Obviously he's in a class of his own."

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Sabres winger Jeff Skinner did not practice with the team Thursday for what Housley called "maintenance" but is expected to play against the Canucks on Friday night. Puck drop is 10 p.m. ET.

Skinner briefly left for the locker room in the first period of the Sabres' 4-3 overtime win Wednesday in Calgary after he went hard into the boards, clutching at his left arm and appearing to be in pain.

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Canucks center Bo Horvat is expected to play against the Sabres after suffering an injury during a shootout loss to Edmonton on Thursday night. Horvat has 17 goals among 37 points in 48 games. Vancouver called up Tanner Kero from Utica as a precaution in the event Horvat can't play.

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