||5 MT / 7 ET / 12 GMT
|24-15-6||January 9th, 2010
|54 pts||HSBC Arena
|7th in West
||2nd in East
The Buffalo Sabres and Colorado Avalanche are two teams with surprisingly similar identities, but going in completely different directions at this point. I'll leave the guesswork to you as to which of the teams is on the downward path. (Hint - their name rhymes with Gravel Ranch)
Both teams have struggled with scoring on the power play at various points of the year. Both teams were predicted to do much worse than they actually have. Both teams have a fairly young core with a contender for the Calder trophy. Above all though, both teams have been carried by their stud goaltenders.
The heroics of both Ryan Miller and Craig Anderson are well documented, with both "guardians" (Thanks, Pepsi Center!) standing on their heads for their teams all year long. If the Avs and Sabres had been starting Budaj and Lalime all year, this game would probably be between two last place teams rather than a game between two serious playoff contenders. Both players are probably in the running for the Vezina trophy and if their great play keeps up, perhaps even the Hart.
The Sabres are on an upswing, having won 6 straight, along with being able to wrangle at least a point their last 10 games at home. Last night they managed a 3-2 drubbing of the Maple Leafs that probably should have been closer to 8-2, the way both teams played. The Avalanche are losers of 2 straight, both in horrifying fashion to awful teams. Their last game was a 2-1 failure against the Hurricanes, which probably should have been closer to 12-1, the way both teams played.
I hate to bring up another "battle of the Calder trophy candidates" conversation – we know how that worked out with Duchene vs. Tevares – but rookie Defenseman Tyler Myers of the Sabres is making quite a name for himself. He’s been playing shutdown defense all year long and his offensive prowess is finally giving Lindy Ruff a chance to play some non-wingers on the point when the power play arrives. Just last night he had a 3 point game against Toronto. We can only hope that Matt Duchene can manage to break him for a 3 point game of his own!
I expect Andy to get the start for the Avalanche not only because this is a huge game but because Budaj is not allowed to start two games in a row, as we all know. Miller will most likely get the nod for the Sabres - he's gotten just about as much work as Anderson has this year - but there is a chance Lalime gets the start, I'm sure.
I see this as a great chance for a statement game if the Avalanche can manage a win over the tough Buffalo team. The momentum might even carry them to some victories in the tough stretch ahead against Calgary, New Jersey and Edmonton.
Then again I’m a fan of both teams so whoever wins, I win!
(Just kidding, go Avs!)