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Colorado Avalanche Game Day: Avalanche wrap up 4 game home stand against the Sabres

Ryan O’Reilly and the struggling Sabres pay a visit to the Pepsi Center.

Buffalo Sabres v Colorado Avalanche Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

The Buffalo Sabres are in town Tuesday night, bringing Ryan O’Reilly back to Colorado for their one and only visit to the Pepsi Center this season.

The two teams split the season series last year, with the home team taking victories in both contests. Despite this, their overall record is less balanced; coming into Tuesday’s game, the Avalanche have won 11 of the past 13 games against the Buffalo Sabres.

In a familiar position to where the Avs were last season, the Sabres sit alone at the bottom of the NHL with 16 points and a 6-17-4 record. Their goal differential of -38 sticks out like a sore thumb on an already battered hand. Not only do the Sabres give up the most goals per game league-wide at 3.44, they also struggle to score, only potting 2.07 goals per game (which, like their defense, is worst in the league).

Jason Botterill, GM for the Sabres, has seen enough and has already started to shake things up for Buffalo this year. Long-time Buffalo Sabre Matt Moulson was just put on waivers, and seemingly everyone is on the trade block except for 2015 #2 overall Jack Eichel.

Speaking of trades... hard to believe the Ryan O’Reilly trade is already 2+ years old, but at least now we get a better outlook on who “won” the trade back in 2015. I won’t go into much detail on how we acquired more draft picks than we received from the original trade, but the complete breakdown and eventual players who were drafted looks like this:

To Buffalo

Ryan O’Reilly
Jamie McGinn (Currently playing for the Florida Panthers)

To Colorado

Nikita Zadorov
Mikhail Grigorenko (CSKA Moscow)
J.T. Compher
A.J. Greer (2015 2nd RD pick acquired from SJ for Buffalo’s 2015 2nd RD pick)
Cam Morrison (2016 2nd RD pick acquired from SJ for Buffalo’s 2015 2nd RD pick)
Denis Smirnov (2017 6th RD pick acquired from SJ for Buffalo’s 2015 2nd RD pick)

Hard to argue that Sakic and Co didn’t make out like gangbusters on that ORLY trade back in 2015. Still early to call it a “win” - but with the pieces Colorado received and a little GM magic from Sakic, the Avalanche are sitting pretty with up and coming young guns. Only Grigorenko has so far bitten the dust.

The Sabres have lost 11 of the past 12 games, and are currently riding a 4 game losing streak.

The Avs aren’t doing much better lately, of course, losing 4 of their last 6 with 2 of those losses coming at home. Overall, though, they’re in a better position coming into the contest.

Colorado Avalanche

Prior to the game tonight, the Avalanche made some roster moves, with Colin Wilson returning from injury and Landeskog 1 game away from serving his 4 game suspension. Dominic Toninato was reassigned to San Antonio, while Rocco Grimaldi was given another shot for the Avs this season.

This may have come as a surprise move, given that Toninato has played ok in his 8 games with the Avalanche - while Grimaldi has been far from that in his 5 games for the Avs earlier in the season.

However, it appears that this is a 1 game rental from San Antonio, as Landeskog will draw back into the lineup on Thursday.

With Wilson back and taking over 4th line duties, the Avalanche needed a speedy play maker to fill in on the wing. Toninato wouldn’t fit that role, neither would Wilson - enter Grimaldi. When the puck is on Grimaldi’s stick he makes use of his opportunities and generates scoring chances, despite sub-par at best defensive ability.

It looks like Grimaldi will play RW on the 4th line with Wilson and Andrighetto. J.T. Compher will be back up on the top line with MacKinnon and Rantanen tonight. The “kid line” was acceptable during the past few games, but it appeared that Andrighetto just couldn’t cut it on the top line going against the opponent’s top line. Compher should provide more stability, as he plays a sound defensive game along with play making skills.


Compher - MacKinnon-Rantanen
Jost - Kerfoot - Yakupov
Nieto - Soderberg - Comeau
Andrighetto - Wilson - Grimaldi

Patrik Nemeth is still a couple days away from returning to the lineup, which will provide some much needed assurance to the back end. He’s been skating in a red no-contact jersey in practice, and could possibly be back for the game on Thursday against the Lightning.

Duncan Siemens was recalled by the Avalanche last week, after sending both Andrei Mironov and Chris Bigras down to San Antonio to get some ice time. After how poorly Mark Barberio has played lately, Coach Bednar will give Siemens a shot in this game against a struggling Sabres team.


Girard - Johnson
Zadorov - Siemens
Lindholm - Barrie

Buffalo Sabres

The Buffalo Sabres have a scoring problem.

Right now their leading scoring is Evander Kane with 24 points (12g, 12a), who ranks 37th in total NHL scoring. (Not great.) Jack Eichel is second on the team with 20 points (7g, 13a).

Another amusing but disturbing fact is that every single eligible player on the Sabres has a negative +/- (Josh Gorges has a 0 +/- but has only played in 12 games). Now we talk a lot about how that statistic is irrelevant to measure how good a player is but it does say a lot when your team gets scored on at will. Remember -38 GD.

As the only clear asset other than the non-expendable Eichel, Evander Kane has had his name mentioned a few times in the rumor mill recently. He’ll be a free agent at the end of the year and doesn’t sound like he’ll be a Sabre next season. Leading up to the trade deadline he’ll want to put on his best face as to try and be traded to a contender.

2014 2nd overall pick, Sam Reinhart, has had a slow start to the season. He was looked upon to be a leading scorer for the Sabres when they drafted him that high in 2014 - but so far, in 2 full seasons, has only just eclipsed the 40 point mark. He won’t get anywhere near that point total this year if he stays on the 4th line, where he currently resides along with another 1st round draft pick in Zemgus Girgensons.


Kane - Eichel - Pominville
Pouliot - O’Reilly - Fasching
Nolan - Rodrigues - Okposo
Girgensons - Larsson - Reinhart

The Big Finn, Rasmus Ristolainen, has been the best Sabre defender in recent years - but has really lost his scoring touch to start the season, only totaling 7 points in 18 games.

Marco Scandella was a big offseason acquisition for Buffalo, who sent Tyler Ennis, Marcus Foligno and a 3rd rounder to Minnesota in exchange for aforementioned Scandella and Jason Pominville. Scandella has never been a big point producer, but plays a strong, hard-hitting game.

Viktor Antipin is another name to look out for tonight. He was signed as an undrafted free agent over the off season in hopes to be a key part of the defensive core rebuild the Buffalo Sabres are trying to establish. He’s been playing a lot on the powerplay and can move the puck around effectively.


Scandella - Ristolainen
Bogosian - Beaulieu
Antipin - McCabe


Semyon Varlamov will start between the pipes tonight, after coming in relief for Jonathan Bernier on Sunday night. He allowed 2 goals on 18 shots, but will look to get the Avs back on track tonight. He’s been stellar at home this season, going 5-1-1 with a 2.81 GAA and .917 SV% at the Pepsi Center.

Robin Lehner is tentatively set to start across ice from Varly for the Sabres. He's lost eight of his last nine contests for Buffalo and owns a 5-12-2 record with a 2.98 goals-against-average and a .903 save percentage this season.

How to Watch/Listen

Altitude Sports and MSG - Buffalo will televise the game at 7pm MST.

If you’re listening to the radio waves, the game will air with our friend Marc Moser on 950AM Altitude Sports Network.