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DENVER – Alex Tuch, Mattias Samuelsson, and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen are all expected to return to the lineup for the Buffalo Sabres against the Colorado Avalanche at Ball Arena on Wednesday.

Tuch has missed the last four games after sustaining an injury during the third period against Nashville on Dec. 3. Luukkonen also has not played since that night due to an illness, though he did back up Devon Levi during the Sabres’ win over Arizona on Monday.

Samuelsson did not play against Arizona due to what Sabres coach Don Granato described as soreness. He did not practice Tuesday but was a full participant in Wednesday’s morning skate.

The game against the Avalanche will be nationally televised on TNT beginning at 10 p.m. Dan Dunleavy and Rob Ray will have the radio call on WGR 550.

The Sabres are opening a three-game road trip out west, which concludes with back-to-back games in Vegas and Arizona on Friday and Saturday, respectively.

Here are five things to know.

1. The lineup

The Sabres lineup will feature both Tuch and Tage Thompson for the first time since Nov. 7. Tuch missed two stretches due to injuries while Thompson missed nine games with an upper-body injury.

The two skated as linemates Wednesday morning, with Thompson at center and Zach Benson on the left wing opposite Tuch. Jeff Skinner skated on a line with Casey Mittelstadt and JJ Peterka.

Granato spoke after the skate about how Benson can complement his veteran linemates.

“Benny positions himself very well, forces plays and opposition into precarious areas that his skill can take advantage of,” he said. “He’s a highly intelligent young player and I think the more skill you surround him with, the more that skill benefits from his intuitive sense of the game.”

2. Luukkonen vs. the Avs

Luukkonen made 39 saves to defeat the Avalanche at Ball Arena last December – a career high until he stopped 41 shots in Vegas later on that same trip. He faced the Avalanche again at home this season and made 23 stops for his first career shutout.

Luukkonen credited his play in both games to the team’s mentality.

“We are really ready every time we play them from the start,” he said. “We know how good of a team they are, so be ready from the start. I think that has showed [in] my starts at least. I think it's not only me, it's the whole team."

3. Johnson’s return to Colorado

Erik Johnson will play his first game at Ball Arena since departing the Avalanche to sign a one-year contract with the Sabres on July 1. Johnson played 13 seasons for Colorado from 2011 to 2023, a tenure that included a Stanley Cup win in 2022.

The veteran defenseman looked ahead to his return on Tuesday, which you can read here.

4. On the road

The Sabres swept their trip through Colorado, Vegas, and Arizona last December, a run that started with Luukkonen’s 39-save win over the Avalanche.

More recently, the Sabres won road games over the top two teams in the Eastern Conference when they visited the New York Rangers on Nov. 27 and the Boston Bruins on Dec. 7. Both games featured raucous atmospheres like the one they expect in Colorado.

“You go into buildings like this and you want to control the best chance scenarios that you can, and that’s playing a simple, hard game,” Granato said. “We were able to do it at different points and we need to make sure we’re consistent in that regard especially tonight.”

5. Scouting the Avalanche

The Avalanche rallied with three goals during the third period to defeat the Flames 6-5 at home on Monday. Nathan MacKinnon scored the winning goal on a breakaway and also had an assist to extend his point streak to 12 games, with six goals and 13 assists in that span.

MacKinnon leads the Avalanche and is tied for third in the NHL with 39 points this season. Cale Makar is right behind him with 36 points, second among NHL defensemen and tied for 10th overall.

Colorado sits atop the Central Division standings at 17-9-2.