DENVER - The Buffalo Sabres are in Denver tonight for their second and final meeting of the season against the Colorado Avalanche. It's the first game back for Buffalo after the bye week and the five-day break helped a few players return from injury or illness without missing any additional game action.
Zemgus Girgensons and Sam Reinhart are expected to return to the lineup tonight. They practiced with the team in full yesterday in Denver.
Girgensons has been sidelined for seven games with a mid-body injury. Reinhart missed two games with an illness and said he started to turn it around on Wednesday, when we found himself able to hit the gym again.
"I feel obviously the best I have in the last week today," Reinhart said after Saturday's morning skate at Pepsi Center. "It's been a while for everyone and even longer for me so I'm pretty ready to get back it tonight."
Players were in agreement that yesterday's up-tempo practice - albeit brief - was beneficial in helping them get back up to speed after the mandatory break.
"Coming out of the bye week, it's good to get our legs going again, especially in the altitude, it's a little better," Ryan O'Reilly, who played the first six seasons of his career in Colorado, said. "I thought we had two good skates - may not have been the cleanest ones, but still, we got moving and it's going to help out tonight."
Ryan O'Reilly will be going up against his old club for the fourth time. He has four assists in those previous three matchups, including a helped in Buffalo's 2-0 win over the Avalanche on Feb. 16. Reinhart (who has two goals and an assist in three career games against the Avs) and Evander Kane (who now has 15 points in his last 14 games) scored in that game.
Robin Lehner, who will start in goal on Saturday, made 23 saves on that night. In 10 games over the month of February, Lehner has a .942 save percentage.
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"Our conversation before the skate was, we played them just a few games ago. Although we don't play them a lot, we've played them recently and know exactly what they are and what they bring and what we're up against," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said.
The Sabres are within striking distance of a playoff spot and to make up ground, they'll have to reverse some unfortunate recent history. Buffalo is 0-3-2 in its last five trips to Colorado, having last won back on Dec. 4, 2005.
Here's your projected lineup
56 Justin Bailey - 90 Ryan O'Reilly - 21 Kyle Okposo
9 Evander Kane - 15 Jack Eichel - 23 Sam Reinhart
82 Marcus Foligno - 28 Zemgus Girgensons - 12 Brian Gionta
26 Matt Moulson - 71 Evan Rodrigues - 63 Tyler Ennis
29 Jake McCabe - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
4 Josh Gorges - 77 Dmitry Kulikov
47 Zach Bogosian - 6 Cody Franson
40 Robin Lehner
31 Anders Nilsson
Scratched: 41 Justin Falk, 44 Nicolas Deslauriers
It's a 10 p.m. ET faceoff tonight with the Tops Game Night pregame show kicking off at 9:30 on MSG. Dan and Rayzor have the call and you can also listen live on WGR 550.
Stick with Sabres.com for full postgame coverage. The team will hit the road for Arizona right after, where they'll play the Coyotes tomorrow night at 8:30 ET.
Tonight's game opens up Buffalo's 12th of a league-high 19 sets of back-to-back games this season. The Sabres are 6-3-2 in the first game of back-to-back sets and 4-6-1 in the second game thus far.
Buffalo's point breakdown in previous back-to-back sets this season? Four points (2), three points (2), two points (4), one point (1) and zero points (2).
They'll look to pick up the first two of a possible four tonight.