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Preview: The Condor flies into Denver with the Sabres

The Colorado Avalanche welcome the return of Erik Johnson in matchup with Buffalo.

NHL: Buffalo Sabres at Carolina Hurricanes James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Former Avalanche Defender Erik Johnson has returned to Denver for a matchup with his old teammates. The Buffalo Sabres and Colorado Avalanche will drop the puck at approximately 8:22 p.m. local time after the celebration and acknowledgment of the Defender from Bloomington, MN, whom Avalanche fans lovingly nicknamed the Condor. Will EJ get the last laugh, or can the Avalanche remind him just how good they are?

Colorado Avalanche

The Avalanche did well to overcome a two-goal deficit in the third period of their contest with the Calgary Flames, but I think all Avalanche fans are hoping that these wins become less stressful. It's fun to get comeback wins, but it's even more fun to dominate teams, and that's the ultimate characteristic of a championship roster. I'm calling for tonight: focusing on sixty minutes of Avalanche hockey. That means getting ahead early, separating on the scoresheet, and slamming the door shut.

Mikko Rantanen finally got his goal via a greasy net-front skirmish. That's typically the type of goal that propels a true goal scorer toward the glory of more and more celly sessions. Hopefully, they are prettier than Mikko's last goal and celebration.

The whole top line made a statement in the third period with Mikko, Valeri Nichushkin, and Nathan MacKinnon combining on the game-tying and winning goals. The passing play that led to the game-winner is just fine art.

Projected Lineup

Nathan MacKinnon — Valeri Nichushkin — Mikko Rantanen
Jonathan Drouin — Ryan Johansen — Tomas Tatar
Miles Wood — Ross Colton — Logan O'Connor
Andrew Cogliano — Fredrick Olofsson — Ben Meyers

Devon Toews — Cale Makar
Bo Byram — Josh Manson
Jack Johnson — Sam Malinski

Buffalo Sabres

Buffalo had a breakout season last year, so expectations have risen for the Sabres. Tage Thompson set the world on fire last season with 47 goals and 47 assists. So far this season, Tage has had seven goals and seven assists in 20 games. Players and fans hoped the Sabres would have gotten off to a stronger start with just 12 wins in 29 games. They are coming in from a victory over the pesky Arizona Coyotes, so perhaps that momentum can carry into tonight.

Projected Lineup

Zach Benson — Tage Thompson — Alex Tuch
Jeff Skinner — Casey Mittelstadt — JJ Peterka
Tyson Jost — Dylan Cozens — Victor Olofsson
Eric Robinson — Peyton Krebs — Kyle Okposo

Rasmus Dahlin — Henri Jokiharju
Owen Power — Ryan Johnson
Erik Johnson — Connor Clifton

Note: Alex Tuch will soon return to the lineup after the birth of his child. That looks to be happening tonight.

Goaltenders

Here's tonight's bombshell. In the starters net for Colorado this morning was netminder Ivan Prosvetov. This comes after Ivan replaced usual starter Alexandar Georgiev in the third period against Calgary and sealed the victory. I don't think this means he's moved up in the depth chart, but it does show that Bednar has confidence in the newly acquired Russian netminder and maybe is slightly underwhelmed by Georgiev's play. Perhaps the approach is to give Georgiev the night off after two challenging periods against the flames and motivate him. The only other thing I can think of is an injury to Georgiev, but I'm hopeful that's not the case, nor have I heard anything to substantiate that. What do you think?

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen will get the start for the Sabres tonight. UPK has six victories in 13 appearances and is currently posting a 2.81 GAA and a .907 SV%.