AVALANCHE (10-13-8) AT SABRES (13-17-2)
TV: ALT2, MSG-B
BUFFALO – The Colorado Avalanche will have a pair of players returning to the lineup when they face the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center on Saturday.
Forwards John Mitchell and Patrick Bordeleau will return from injury and are in the lineup for the Avalanche. Mitchell missed seven games with a lower-body injury he sustained against the Dallas Stars on Nov. 29. He will center a line with Alex Tanguay and Jarome Iginla on the wings.
“It feels nice,” Mitchell said. “It feels real good to be out there and skate and finally play a game and not show up at the rink at 6:45 right before the guys go out. Just the thought of being here on time for game time and being prepared, it feels good.”
Bordeleau will make his season debut after being out because of a back injury. He’ll be on the Avalanche’s fourth line with Cody McLeod and Marc-Andre Cliche.
“The plan is to play [Bordeleau] tonight and see how things are going and we’ll make a decision for tomorrow night if we’re going to play him or not in Detroit,” Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. “I want him to focus on tonight and see how his conditioning is, how he feels on the ice, timing, etcetera. We’ll go from after the game.”
Goalie Calvin Pickard will start. Dennis Everberg and Nick Holden will be scratched.
The Sabres will be without Torrey Mitchell again on Saturday. He was injured after he blocked a shot on Monday against the Ottawa Senators and missed the game against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday. Mikhail Grigorenko took Mitchell’s place on Tuesday and was again recalled from Rochester of the American Hockey League on Saturday.
“You see potential, that’s the biggest thing,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. “You see how skilled he is and how he sees the ice. Obviously, we still got his game to the next level. But that’s what you see. The secret is trying to get that potential out of him.”
Grigorenko had one shot on goal in 16:42 in his season debut against the Jets.
“I was really happy,” Grigorenko said. “I had a good camp. After I went to the AHL, I had good games there … Just finally, I was not waiting, but hoping I’m going to get called up. Finally, it happened. It made me feel like I kind of earned it or something. It made me feel really good.”
Grigorenko will also play against his former coach from the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major-Junior Hockey League, Patrick Roy, for the second straight season with the Sabres.
“I knew the schedule and I saw Buffalo was a little bit short of forwards,” Grigorenko said. “I was hoping I would get called up, especially that game against Colorado against Patrick. I saw him this morning at the morning skate. He said, ‘Hi, how are you?’ There was a big smile on my face just to see him. So I’m really excited for tonight.”
Nolan said Josh Gorges will return to the lineup. He missed the past two games because of a finger injury he sustained blocking a shot against the Florida Panthers on Dec. 13. Goaltender Jhonas Enroth will start.
Here are the projected lines:
Maxime Talbot – Matt Duchene – Nathan MacKinnon
Alex Tanguay – John Mitchell – Jarome Iginla
Gabriel Landeskog – Ryan O'Reilly – Daniel Briere
Cody McLeod – Marc-Andre Cliche – Patrick Bordeleau
Erik Johnson – Jan Hejda
Brad Stuart – Zach Redmond
Nate Guenin – Tyson Barrie
Scratched: Dennis Everberg, Nick Holden
Injured: Semyon Varlamov (groin), Jamie McGinn (back), Jesse Winchester (concussion), Ryan Wilson (shoulder), Ben Street (undisclosed)
Matt Moulson – Zemgus Girgensons – Tyler Ennis
Drew Stafford – Brian Flynn – Brian Gionta
Nicolas Deslauriers – Marcus Foligno – Patrick Kaleta
Cody Hodgson – Mikhail Grigorenko – Chris Stewart
Josh Gorges – Tyler Myers
Nikita Zadorov – Rasmus Ristolainen
Andrej Meszaros – Andre Benoit
Injured: Tyson Strachan (lower-body), Cody McCormick (lower-body), Torrey Mitchell (lower-body), Mike Weber (knee)
Status Report: McCormick skated with the Sabres on Saturday. It’s the first time he’s skated with the team since he was injured against the Calgary Flames on Dec. 11.
Who’s Hot: Enroth has won nine of his past 11 appearances. Ennis has six points (one goal, five assists) in his past five games… Landeskog has five points, all assists, in his past five games. Pickard is 1-2-2 in his past five starts but has a .936 save percentage over that span.