Colorado Avalanche Visit Buffalo Sabres


More from Mile High Sticking

The Colorado Avalanche are heading to Buffalo for their only game against the Sabres in the First Niagara Center. The Avalanche are just coming off of a disheartening overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins after an even more disheartening loss against the St. Louis Blues. The Sabres lost big, 5-1 against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday.


Fatigue Factor

The Buffalo Sabres have had a nice four days of lounging around — presumably practicing, but they likely had at least a day in there off. The Avalanche just played the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Thursday, though they, too, had four days of practice/rest before that.

Truthfully, while the Sabres should be somewhat more rested up, there may not be a huge difference in the two teams. The bigger fatigue factor for the Avs will come when they play the Detroit Red Wings the very next day.

Playoff Desperation

The lowly Buffalo Sabres. who were one of the worst in the league last year, have the same amount of points as the Avalanche, 28. While you’re reeling from that, get this — they have more wins, 13 vs. 10.

Both teams would like to make the playoffs, obviously. The Avs kind of expected it after the season they had last year. Both teams are scratching and fighting for every point possible, though.

According to Tim Redinger, editor of Fansided’s own Sabre Noise, the team’s pride is keeping them from playing for Conner McDavid or another high draft pick:

“The Buffalo Sabres have had three days since their stinging loss to the Jets that ended their longest winning streak of the season.  One of two things is going to happen: the Sabres are going to return to the mean that their statistics have said they should be, or they are going to start winning again.  Predicted to be one of the worst teams in the league this season, pride has gotten in the way of the Buffalo Sabres’ goal of drafting as high as possible.   Buffalo is 5-3 in the month of December and have 10 wins in their last fourteen games.

The Sabres are getting great goaltending from the hot hand of Jhonas Enroth, and goal contributions are coming from all over.  The Sabres will have success if they keep the game close and can have a sense of control in the game. “

Keys to the Game

Pickard’s Shining Star

To be blunt, rookie goalie Calvin Pickard is the only reason the Avalanche aren’t being blown out of the water. He has been impressive in net for the team — more so even than Semyon Varlamov was last season. (And certainly more impressive than the oft-injured goalie has been this season.) He stopped a ridiculous 47 of 48 shots against the Penguins — and some of them memorably came from superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

As long as the Avalanche’s offense continues to struggle, the defense will have to pinch in. And as long as the defense has to pinch in, Pickard will have to keep playing like a shining star.

Offensive Woes

The Avs Nation is still shaking its collective head about how a top-six that includes young stars Matt Duchene, Nathan MacKinnon, Ryan O’Reilly and Gabriel Landeskog along with veterans Jarome Iginla and Alex Tanguay can be struggling to score. It seems like they should be scoring three and four a night, at least.

The top-six has got to start scoring. Judging by the work they’re putting in — on shots anyway — MacKinnon’s line is due to explode offensively. In the Penguins game, the MacKinnon line had 12 of the Avalanche’s 27 shots. They’re due. And they may just crack it wide open against the Sabres. If they do, it’s going to get ugly for Buffalo.

After all, if the Sabres want to keep the scoring close, and the Avs start scoring goals like they can… well, that’s a major key to the game.

Who’s Hot, Who’s Not


Surprisingly, Matt Duchene’s line has cooled off. They played so well against the Winnipeg Jets, yet they’ve been practical ghosts for the last two games. Tyson Barrie has also been surprisingly marginalized.


Apparently Enroth is pretty tight in net. However, nobody’s hotter than Pickard right now. He’s literally sizzling. The Avs get one or two goals in regulation, they win the game thanks to Picks.

The Avalanche are also slowly getting healthy. Defenseman Brad Stuart returned after missing five weeks with a hamstring injury. The Penguins game marked his 1,000th in the NHL. John Mitchell and Patrick Bordeleau made the road trip with the Avalanche, though head coach Patrick Roy hasn’t said when they will play. Varlamov is also on the trip.

The game starts at 5:00 pm MST.