In the final matchup between the two clubs this season, the Colorado Avalanche (29-27-12) faces the Buffalo Sabres (30-28-9) in a matinee game at Pepsi Center on Saturday.
It's the 145th meeting between the two franchises. Since 1995-96, the Avalanche holds an 18-10-4 record against Buffalo, which includes a 9-5-2 mark on home ice.
Following the contest, the Avs will remain in Denver to host the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday, Anaheim Ducks on Friday and the New Jersey Devils on March 17.
Last Time Out
The Avalanche fell 4-0 at the Dallas Stars on Thursday. It was Erik Johnson's 500th outing as a member of the Avs and the defenseman recorded three hits and led the team with 23:54 of ice time. Colorado went 1-for-1 on the penalty kill but Alexander Radulov netted a hat trick and Dallas goaltender Ben Bishop recorded his second straight shutout. Avalanche netminder Semyon Varlamov stopped 26 of 29 shots and Philipp Grubauer made three saves in 4:59 of ice time while Varlamov dealt with an equipment issue.
The Sabres met the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday, battling to a 5-4 shootout loss at United Center. Vladimir Sobotka, Brandon Montour and Zach Bogosian all found the back of the net for Buffalo in the second period. Kyle Okposo lit the lamp for Buffalo in the third period, but two goals from the Blackhawks in the frame sent the matchup into overtime and, ultimately, to a shootout. Sabres netminder Carter Hutton made 41-of-45 saves in the matchup.
Last Time They Met
The Avalanche beat Buffalo 6-1 at KeyBank Center on Oct. 11. Nathan MacKinnon (two goals), Mikko Rantanen (three assists) and Tyson Barrie (two assists) registered multi-point performances in the victory. Joining them on the scoresheet were Tyson Jost, Colin Wilson, Carl Soderberg and Alexander Kerfoot, who also tallied in the outing. Nathan Beaulieu notched the lone marker for the Sabres. Colorado went 7-for-7 on the penalty kill and Semyon Varlamov made 30 saves in the victory.
What To Watch
Saturday's outing marks the 11th afternoon game on Colorado's schedule this season (5 p.m. start time or earlier). The Avs own a 4-4-2 record in daytime contests this year, including a 1-2-0 mark at home. The Avalanche will play two more afternoon games this campaign on March 17 against the New Jersey Devils and March 23 versus the Chicago Blackhawks, both games taking place at Pepsi Center.
Line It Up
After practice on Friday, head coach Jared Bednar announced Gabriel Landeskog will be out four-to-six weeks with an upper-body injury therefore Colorado will have new look lines against Buffalo. Bednar noted that Derick Brassard will likely spend time on the first line with Nathan MacKinnon and J.T. Compher.
Players To Watch
Colorado: Center Nathan MacKinnon
In nine career games against the Sabres, MacKinnon has produced 10 points (five goals, five assists) including the two markers he notched in the most recent meeting. The forward is first on the team and tied for 10th in the league with 34 goals this season. Five of those scores have been game-winners, with his most recent coming in an overtime victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday. In addition, MacKinnon shares fifth place in the league for power-play points with 31 points and leads the NHL with 294 shots.
Buffalo: Left Wing Jeff Skinner
Skinner is second on the Sabres in scoring, having accumulated 58 points (36 goals, 22 assists) so far this season. His 36 goals rank sixth (tied) in the NHL and the forward is tied for third in the league with seven game-winners. Skinner has generated 437 points (240 goals, 197 assists) over 646 career NHL games and has recorded seven points (four goals, three assists) in 11 outings versus Colorado.
With Gabriel Landeskog out of the lineup with an upper-body injury, head coach Jared Bednar adjusted the forward combinations at practice on Friday. Derick Brassard is expected to play on a line with Nathan MacKinnon and J.T. Compher while Carl Soderberg will center Colin Wilson and Mikko Rantanen. Additionally, defenseman Nikita Zadorov could be back in the lineup against Buffalo after missing Thursday's game with an upper-body injury.
Saturdays's matchup between the Avalanche and Sabres is slated an earlier start time than usual at 1 p.m. MT. The game can be watched locally on Altitude and streamed on select devices with the AltitudeNOW app (in market) or NHL.tv (out of market). The radio broadcast can be heard on Altitude Sports Radio FM 92.5 in the Denver area or online at ColoradoAvalanche.com.