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Sabres Host the Avs on Thursday Night

Can Buffalo defeat defending Stanley Cup champions?

Colorado Avalanche v Buffalo Sabres Photo by Ben Green/NHLI via Getty Images

Game 24

Buffalo Sabres (10-12-1) vs. Colorado Avalanche (12-7-1)

Puck Drop: 7:00 PM EST, KeyBank Center

TV: MSG

Radio: WGR 550

SB Nation Avalanche Blog: Mile High Hockey

Know Your Opponent

Colorado Avalanche

Record: 12-7-1

Last Game: 5-0 loss to the Winnipeg Jets

Division Ranking: 3rd in the Central Division

PP: 1st (32.39%)

PK: 21st (76.81%)

What to Watch

1. Injury-Ridden Avs an Opportunity for the Sabres

We’ve all seen how injuries can cripple a team’s winning record. Look at the Sabres in the month just ended. Fortunately for Buffalo, the Blue and Gold aren’t the only franchise suffering from the IR curse.

Evan Liu of SB Nation’s Avs blog Mile High Hockey recently examined how Colorado’s weakened roster led to a 5-0 loss against the Jets. With multiple players missing, including former Sabre Evan Rodrigues, from the Avs’ lineup, Colorado was no match for Winnipeg and not only lost but failed to score a single goal.

While many of these players will be back soon, they won’t play against Buffalo tonight. The Sabres have an opportunity to take advantage of a depleted Avs’ team and turn last night’s shootout victory over Detroit into a two-game winning streak.

2. Can UPL Keep Colorado’s Offense Out of the Net?

Sabres backup goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen has been hot and cold lately, unfortunately a little chillier than warm. While he has a career .904 SV% and 3.26 GAA, this season the numbers are .857 and 3.95, respectively.

In his last three matchups, Luukkonen’s SV% stats were .826, .944 and .760. His best game of the three was against the St. Louis Blues, where he stopped 34 of 36 shots and helped Buffalo clinch a 6-2 victory.

Let’s hope the UPL who beat the Blues shows up tonight and not the goalie who gets smoked by playoff-caliber teams like the Bolts and Avs.

3. Avs Betting Favorites in Moneyline Matchup

The Colorado Avalanche are -250 moneyline favorites, according to Shane Mickle of PickDawgz.com. The best available odds are now -175 ML, -1 spread and a 6.5 O/U.

Colorado’s offense was elite last season but this year it’s the D that’s been better. By contrast, Buffalo’s offense is good while its defense has struggled.

Mickle believes this could be a low-scoring game and the Sabres may have trouble getting goals in a back-to-back contest. Even so, he doesn’t trust the Avs to win, allowing Buffalo a possible victory. That’s high praise from a betting expert, who usually never give the Sabres a snowball’s chance in hell of prevailing in any game they play. Bet on Buffalo for a higher payout, if you share Mickle’s misgivings about the Avs.

Projected Lineups

Buffalo Sabres

Forwards

Jeff Skinner – Tage Thompson – Alex Tuch

Zemgus Girgensons – Tyson Jost – Kyle Okposo

Jack Quinn – Dylan Cozens – JJ Peterka

Victor Olofsson – Casey Mittelstadt – Vinnie Hinostroza

Defense

Henri Jokiharju – Owen Power

Mattias Samuelsson – Rasmus Dahlin

Casey Fitzgerald – Lawrence Pilut

Goaltenders: Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (likely), Craig Anderson

Injuries: Ilya Lyubushkin, Jacob Bryson, Eric Comrie

Colorado Avalanche

Forwards

Artturi Lehkonen – Nathan MacKinnon – Mikko Rantanen

Andrew Cogliano – J.T. Compher – Logan O’Connor

Alex Galchenyuk – Alex Newhook – Jean-Luc Foudy

Anton Blidh – Jayson Megna – Dyden Hunt

Defense

Cale Makar – Devon Toews

Josh Manson – Samuel Girard

Erik Johnson – Jacob MacDonald

Goaltenders: Alexandar Georgiev (likely), Pavel Francouz

Injuries: Bowen Byram, Martin Kaut, Evan Rodrigues, Kurtis MacDermid, Shane Bowers, Gabriel Landeskog, Darren Helm, Valeri Nichushkin