Missed opportunities were the theme of the night for the Buffalo Sabres in Colorado on Saturday. On a micro level, there were several missed chances that contributed to the outcome of the game, a 5-3 loss to the last-place Avalanche.
On a macro level, the loss was a missed opportunity in itself to make up precious ground in the standings on a night in which three teams Buffalo is currently chasing had lost.
Dan Bylsma put it bluntly after the game.
"We have 21 [games] left now," he said, "We know we have to win 15 of them to get back in this thing, to get to a mark where we may be able to get in the playoffs. This is a missed opportunity in getting those two points."
That challenge begins tonight, as the Sabres are in Arizona to play the Coyotes at 8:30 p.m. EST. Coverage of the game begins at 8 p.m. on MSG-B, or you can listen live on WGR 550.
Here's what you need to know.
About last night
We had heard about the struggles that teams had faced in their first games back from the bye week this season, and Buffalo was no exception. For the Sabres, a few quick mistakes put them in a 3-0 hole less than six minutes into the game.
Buffalo did figure it out eventually, and went on to outshoot Colorado 37-30 on the night. They inched back to within one goal on two separate occasions, but were unable to find the back of the net for game-tying goal despite having a bunch of opportunities in the third period.
Chris Ryndak goes into detail in his game recap, which you can find here.
"At the end of the day, I think it's on us to bear down in front of the net," forward Sam Reinhart said. "A lot of missed opportunities were definitely there for us tonight and it's a little disappointing when you see the comeback happening, you see it right there for us to take."
Reinhart scored Buffalo's first goal on the power play, giving him seven points (3+4) in his last seven games. Rasmus Ristolainen earned an assist on the goal, giving him sole possession of the League lead in power-play assists (20) and tying his 82-game mark from last season with 33 assists overall. Those numbers come courtesy of @SabresPR.
Marcus Foligno scored his 10th goal of the season for the Sabres, tying a career high, while Evan Rodrigues netted his first.
Let's hear from inside the dressing room after the game:
Video: BYLSMA: Postgame Interview
Video: GIONTA: Postgame Interview
Video: REINHART: Postgame Interview
Video: KULIKOV: Postgame Interview
Arizona hasn't quite had the struggles of Colorado this season, but the Coyotes do sit second-to-last in the NHL with 49 points in 60 games this season. They enter the night having allowed the second most goals-against per game in the NHL (3.22, second to Colorado) while scoring the fourth fewest goals per game (2.33).
The Coyotes are led by veteran forward Radim Vrbata, who holds team leads in assists (30) and points (44). He enters the game on a career-high eight-game point streak and a three-game goal-scoring streak.
Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson is second on the team 33 points (10+23), while Martin Hanzal leads with 16 goals.
This will be the first meeting between the two teams this season, with the rematch in Buffalo coming up on Thursday night.
Toronto lost in overtime against Montreal on Saturday, while Philadelphia and the Islanders both lost in regulation. What that means is that, while the Sabres didn't gain ground, they also didn't lose much. Buffalo still trails Boston by six points for the second wild card spot, but now trails Toronto by seven points for third place in the Atlantic Division.
Games to keep an eye on today: Boston is on the road in Dallas (12:30 p.m. on NBC) while Florida (four points ahead of Buffalo) hosts Ottawa at 7:30 p.m.
Our team will be on hand in Arizona to provide full coverage before and after tonight's game.
Buffalo returns home on Tuesday night to begin a three-game homestand against the Nashville Predators.