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Sharpen Up: February 17, 2017

by Chris Ryndak @ChrisRyndak / Sabres.com

The Sabres put together back-to-back wins for the first time this month when they downed the Colorado Avalanche last night on home ice. 

Robin Lehner made 23 saves in the 2-0 shutout victory. Buffalo received goals from Sam Reinhart (with his eighth power-play goal of the season) and Evander Kane (who is 13th in the NHL with 18 even-strength goals - despite missing 12 games this year). 

Here's what you need to know.

 

Brian Duff has you covered with his video recap of last night's action:

Video: DUFFER RECAP

The Sabres outshot the Avalanche 43-23, but didn't break through until 48 seconds into the second period with their third - and ultimately their final - power play of the night. That goal put Buffalo back atop the League power-play rankings. They're clicking at 23.3 percent this season.  

Kane then iced the game with a goal with 4:14 to play in the third.

 

More from Jourdon LaBarber's game recap (which you should definitely read):

The Sabres answered the call with one of their most complete 60-minute efforts of the season. They possessed the puck in the offensive zone, generating 51 shot attempts, and yet were careful enough to limit Colorado to just a handful of true scoring chances.

"You can tell they've been struggling all year, you can kind of see it in their play a bit," Sabres forward Ryan O'Reilly said. "For us, with such important points, we can't get lackadaisical or deviate. We've got to do the things consistently every night to have success and I thought we did do that."

The Sabres did their job against a struggling team, and by doing so they pulled within three points of Toronto for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. Their next test comes against two perennial contenders in the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blacks, who they'll welcome to KeyBank Center for back-to-back games on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

Following those two games, the Sabres will take five days off for their bye week.

"We need to go back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back," Kane said. "That's where we're at right now in terms of this point of the season. We have two tough teams coming into our building to cap it off before the break and we have to have both of those games."

 

Here are the highlights:

Video: Lehner stops 23 shots in 2-0 shutout of Avalanche


Also of note:

Lehner earned his second shutout of the season and the fifth of his career. His 23 saves were the fewest needed by a Sabres goaltender in a shutout since Ryan Miller stopped all 22 Florida Panthers shots on Oct. 20, 2011 in Florida.

He's currently tied for third in the NHL with a .926 save percentage (tied with Braden Holtby, Matt Murray and Craig Anderson). The only goalies ahead of them? Scott Darling of Chicago (who has played in just 23 games) and Minnesota's Devan Dubnyk (who is having a ridiculous year with a .933 save percentage, a 1.97 goals-against average and a record of 31-10-3 with five shutouts).  

With his power-play goal, Reinhart now has six points (2+4) in his last six games.

O'Reilly, who recorded an assist on Reinhart's goal, has tallied at least a point in all three of his career games against the Avalanche (0+4).

And with his assist on Reinhart's goal, Rasmus Ristolainen has points in a career-best five straight home games (1+4).


Injury update

Derek Grant left the game in the first period with a shoulder injury. Bylsma said after the game that holding him out for the remainer of the game was for precautionary reasons and that Grant will undergo further evaluation today. 

To help fill the void, Evan Rodrigues skated a career-high 15:47, picked up an assist on Kane's goal and registered three shots on goal.

"He's really shown quite a bit for a guy who is not a natural centerman," Bylsma said of Rodrigues. "In every one of his games, he's shown his ability to play there, be responsible there, play good positionally there, manage the puck well. 

"I mean, several times tonight he's making the play coming out of D-zone coverage through the middle of the ice to the net-front guy and still at the same time showing a bit of the offensive ability when he has the puck on his stick."

 

For full postgame comments, check out these sweet interviews:

 Video: BYLSMA: Postgame

Video: O'REILLY: Postgame

 Video: LEHNER: Postgame

 

Let's take a step back into Sabres history, shall we? 

Video: Diamond in the Rough: Yuri Khmylev

Be on the lookout for a few more of these features as the season rolls on.  


On tap today

We'll have full practice coverage for you today from HarborCenter. We'll follow up on last night's storylines and set you up for this weekend's action. 

Want to meet Tyler Ennis and tell him how great Enzo Sauce is?

He'll be at the Wegmans at 8270 Transit Rd. in Williamsville tonight from 6 until 7:15 p.m. to promote the sauce, sign autographs and meet with fans. 

Video: Introducing Enzo Sauce

If you're looking to do something after that, you can stop by KeyBank Center for the Bandits game. It's Hometown Heroes Night as Buffalo takes on New England. Faceoff is scheduled for 7:30. 

Last week, the Bandits personally thanked local police officers, firefighters and members of the U.S. Coast Guard:

Bandits Hometown Heroes Visits


Or you can stay home and watch the Amerks. They host Bridgeport tonight and that game can be seen on MSG with puck drop set for 7:05. 

Remember, tomorrow's Sabres game (and it's a Kids Day Game!) is a 1 p.m. start on MSG and WGR 550 so check in with the Tops Game Night pregame show starting at 12:30 on MSG if you aren't coming to the rink. 

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