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Preview: Avalanche at Sabres

Buffalo forward Evander Kane back from illness; Colorado aims to end four-game losing streak

by Joe Yerdon / Correspondent

AVALANCHE (15-37-2) at SABRES (24-23-10)

7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NHL.TV


Avalanche team scope

The Colorado Avalanche take a four-game losing streak and a 10-game road losing streak into their game against the Buffalo Sabres. The Avalanche have been outscored 16-6 during their four-game slide. "The most important thing is shifting the focus to tonight's game; we can't worry about the past few games now," coach Jared Bednar said. "We hadn't had a week of practice since last Sunday, so we had a good practice here yesterday and a lengthy video session going over some of the things we did well over the last couple of games and some of the things we certainly needed to improve on." One player who has done well of late is forward Mikko Rantanen, who has three goals and six points in his past six games, including a hat trick in a 4-0 win against the Montreal Canadiens on Feb. 7. "He's starting to understand the League and his opponents a little bit," Bednar said. "Obviously we're seeing some of these teams for the first time and the players will be new to him, but he's had a real good homestand coming off of a four-game point streak and he's starting to find the net a little bit more consistently from a goal scoring standpoint. Working on the consistency of his game I think is real important to make sure he's a difference maker every night because I think he can be. But moving his legs is certainly the key for him in order to be a productive player." Goalie Calvin Pickard will start and the rest of the lineup will remain the same from a 3-2 loss at the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday.


Sabres team scope

Left wing Evander Kane will return to the Buffalo Sabres' lineup after he missed their 3-2 win against the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday with an illness. Kane has six goals and five assists in his past 11 games and leads the Sabres with 17 even-strength goals. "Usually I'm able to play through the cold or the flu, but unfortunately in Ottawa it overtook pretty rapidly and pretty vigorously, so it was tough," Kane said. "I'm feeling better today and I'm looking to get back on track here." Center Ryan O'Reilly has two goals and three assists in his past five games and faces his former team for the third time. "They've got a lot of great players over there and they're a good team," O'Reilly said. "I guess it's a lot of bad bounces. I haven't been watching them too much, but seeing them that low in the standings, it's surprising." The Sabres are five points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference. They're 1-10-2 in Thursday games, including 0-5-2 in their past seven, but 10-3-3 in Tuesday games. "Tuesdays have been a good day for us and Thursday has been a day we'd like to be Tuesday," coach Dan Blysma said. Goalie Robin Lehner will start.


Avalanche projected lineup

Gabriel Landeskog -- Nathan MacKinnon -- Mikko Rantanen

Mikhail Grigorenko -- Matt Duchene -- Matt Nieto

Blake Comeau -- John Mitchell -- Jarome Iginla

Carl Soderberg -- Joe Colborne -- Andreas Martinsen

Francois Beauchemin -- Tyson Barrie

Mark Barberio -- Nikita Zadorov

Fedor Tyutin -- Cody Goloubef

Calvin Pickard

Jeremy Smith

Scratched: Patrick Wiercioch

Injured: Rene Bourque (head), Erik Johnson (leg), Semyon Varlamov (groin/hip)


Sabres projected lineup

Justin Bailey -- Ryan O'Reilly -- Kyle Okposo

Evander Kane -- Jack Eichel -- Sam Reinhart

Marcus Foligno -- Evan Rodrigues -- Brian Gionta

Matt Moulson -- Derek Grant -- Tyler Ennis

Jake McCabe -- Rasmus Ristolainen

Justin Falk -- Zach Bogosian

Josh Gorges -- Dmitry Kulikov

Robin Lehner

Anders Nilsson

Scratched: Taylor Fedun, Nicolas Deslauriers

Injured: Cody Franson (foot), Zemgus Girgensons (mid-body), William Carrier (knee), Johan Larsson (wrist)


Status report

Johnson participated in an optional skate. He's been out since Dec. 6. … Franson took part in the morning skate. He's missed the past three games since injuring his foot against the Anaheim Ducks on Feb. 9.


Who's hot

Rantanen has three goals and three assists in his past six games. Okposo has three goals and four assists during a seven-game point streak. O'Reilly has a goal and an assist, and Ristolainen has two assists, during their respective two-game point streaks.

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