One of the keys to the Avalanche’s success this season has been its resiliency. When one player goes down, another one steps up.
Tuesday night against the Buffalo Sabres, it was Daniel Winnik who stepped up early in the absence of Avalanche assistant captain Paul Stastny
Stastny participated in the pre-game warmup tonight, but was experiencing flu-like symptoms and wasn’t feeling well enough to go when the puck dropped.
In Stastny’s absence, Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco chose to roll out 11 forwards and seven defensemen against the Sabres – as opposed to the six defensemen he was planning on playing - and it was Winnik who took his turn in the spotlight.
The Toronto native started the night’s scoring in the first period after sneaking behind the Buffalo defense and gloving down a long, high stretch pass from T.J. Galiardi just outside the offensive blue line. WInnik skated in alone and beat Sabres netminder Ryan Miller from the right faceoff dot at the 14:16 mark for his seventh goal of the campaign.
“It was off of an odd man rush for them and it was actually a rebound and we funneled back well and Gally saw me breaking and did a nice high flip," said Winnik. "Miller came out and challenged and the top side of the net was open.”
The 6-foot-2, 210-pound winger picked up his second point of the period at 16:03 by assisting on Ryan O’Reilly’s short-handed tally. After O’Reilly pestered Buffalo defenseman Andrej Sekera with an aggressive forecheck and forced a bad drop pass, Winnik picked up the loose puck and made a nice feed to O’Reilly, who put home a shot from just outside the goal crease.
In addition to his two points, Winnik finished the evening with a +1 plus/minus rating and three shots while leading all forwards with 22:25 of ice time. He also continued his solid work on Colorado’s improved penalty-killing unit, which had gone three straight games (12 chances total) without allowing a power-play goal before giving up a Thomas Vanek tally in the first period tonight.
Colorado killed off seven of Buffalo’s eight power-play chances tonight – including a big one in overtime – and now stands at 95% (19/20) over the past four games.
“A couple breaks in overtime happened as well," said Winnik. "I thought we had some unfortunate calls in the third period. It’s great to see how our PK responded.”
Tonight wasn’t anything out of the ordinary for Winnik, who has been one of the Avalanche’s most consistent performers lately.
On New Year’s Eve against Calgary, the forward scored a goal on one of his team-high four shots and also held a +1 plus/minus rating in 18:19 of ice time. Two nights later against Vancouver, Winnik was held off the score sheet and was even in the plus/minus department, but again paced the Avs with five shots on goal.
Over the last three games, Winnik has now totaled three points (2g/1a) with a +2 plus/minus rating and 12 shots while averaging 18:19 of ice time.