Sabres Host the Avs on Thursday Night
<em>Can Buffalo defeat defending Stanley Cup champions?</em>
Buffalo Sabres (10-12-1) vs. Colorado Avalanche (12-7-1)
Puck Drop: 7:00 PM EST, KeyBank Center
Radio: WGR 550
SB Nation Avalanche Blog: Mile High Hockey
Know Your Opponent
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.
Jeff Skinner – Tage Thompson – Alex Tuch
Zemgus Girgensons – Tyson Jost – Kyle Okposo
Jack Quinn – Dylan Cozens – JJ Peterka
Victor Olofsson – Casey Mittelstadt – Vinnie Hinostroza
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
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
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