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Sabres start road trip with Avalanche test

Buffalo are on a three-game jaunt away from home

Colorado Avalanche v Buffalo Sabres Photo by Joshua Bessex/Getty Images

Game 30

Buffalo Sabres (11-13-1) at Colorado Avalanche (15-10-2)

Puck Drop: 9:00 PM EST | Ball Arena | Denver CO

TV: ESPN+

Radio: WGR 550

SB Nation Avalanche Blog: Mile High Hockey

Know Your Opponent

Colorado Avalanche

Record: 15-10-2

Last Game: 3-2 win vs Philadelphia Flyers

Division Ranking: 4th in Central Division

PP: 28.1% (4th)

PK: 76.6% (20th)

What to Watch For

1. Disciplined Offense

The Sabres are 5-3-2 in their last ten games, and starting to turn things back around after an eight-game pointless losing streak, What that slump did though was also push Buffalo into the basement of an incredibly competitive Atlantic Division where they sit now in eighth place with 28 points. Comparatively, if they were in the Central Division they would be fifth.

While they lead the league in goals per game (3.93, versus the Avs in 16th with 3.07), in the last six games going back to the last time they played Colorado at KeyBank Center the Sabres have scored 29 times, an average of nearly five a game. Buffalo will be well served with trying to turn this game into a track meet where their speed will work in their favor. Tage Thompson has been in fine form recently (all season, really), and with key goal contributions throughout the lineup there is not a team the Sabres cannot hang with on any given night.

Where the Sabres got killed though in that 6-4 home loss was with discipline. Handing a multi-talented team like the Avs the man-advantage comes with a lot of inherent risk, and star Nathan MacKinnon took advantage with a five-point night (he will miss tonight’s game, phew!). Colorado scored three times on seven power play opportunities in that defeat, and even with all their injuries they still have the potential to hurt the Sabres whose penalty kill has improved recently, but still remains a weak link.

The Avs have only given up six power plays in their last three games, and also have a short-handed goal in their last game, so expect special teams to have a part to play tonight.

2. Bottom Six The Key

Rookie Jean-Luc Foudy looks to have acclimated well, but that third line with Ben Meyers and Charles Hudon are yet to score in the league. In fact, the bottom six haven’t scored points in some time now except for Alex Newhook, and his only came when he was on ice with Mikko Rantanen.

Meanwhile, Peyton Krebs has now made it three goals in four games, Victor Olofsson got two much-needed 5-on-5 goals in the last week, and Kyle Okposo grabbed one too. If the top six can match the Avs offensive output, and the Sabres bottom six chip in with a couple of goals, then a win could happen.

3. Short Term Memory

The Buffalo Sabres have an abysmal recent history against Colorado, losing the last eight games all in regulation. Buffalo’s last win in the Mile High City was back in December 2017. In those eight games, the Sabres have been outscored 38-16. Buffalo are now 1-9-0 against Colorado, and a poor 1-7-2 in Denver.

The Sabres were fearless when they last played the Avs, coming back from a goal down to lead before a poor second period saw Colorado race away. If Don Granato can get his boys to not think about who they’re playing against and forget about recent history, then they will have a good chance to pick up some much-needed points.

Projected Lineups

Buffalo Sabres

Forwards

Casey Mittelstadt - Tage Thompson - Alex Tuch

JJ Peterka - Dylan Cozens - Jack Quinn

Rasmus Asplund - Tyson Jost - Victor Olofsson

Zemgus Girgensons - Peyton Krebs - Kyle Okposo

Defense

Mattias Samuelsson - Rasmus Dahlin

Owen Power - Jacob Bryson

Kale Clague - Casey Fitzgerald

Goaltenders: Craig Anderson, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (projected starter)

Scratches: Lawrence Pilut, Henri Jokiharju

Injuries: Eric Comrie, Ilya Lyubushkin, Vinnie Hinostroza

Colorado Avalanche

Forwards

Artturi Lehkonen (62) - Mikko Rantanen (96) - Valeri Nichushkin (13)

Andrew Cogliano (11) - J.T. Compher (37) - Logan O’Connor (25)

Charles Hudon (54) - Ben Meyers (59) - Jean-Luc Foudy (93)

Dryden Hunt (22) - Alex Newhook (18) - Jacob MacDonald (26)

Defense

Sam Girard (49) - Cale Makar (8)

Devon Toews (7) - Erik Johnson (6)

Brad Hunt (17) - Andreas Englund (88)

Goaltenders: Alexandar Georgiev (projected starter), Pavel Francouz

Scratches:

Injuries: Gabriel Landeskog, Darren Helm, Josh Manson, Nathan MacKinnon, Kurtis MacDermid, Bowen Byram, Evan Rodrigues