(SportsNetwork.com) - The Colorado Avalanche will aim for a third straight
victory when they welcome the lowly Buffalo Sabres for Saturday's afternoon
battle at the Pepsi Center.
Colorado has played terrific hockey of late, going 11-3-1 over the last 15
games, but the club is still running third in the Central Division and the Avs
are four points behind the second-place Blues.
One of the biggest reasons for Colorado's surprisingly successful season has
been the play of No. 1 goaltender Semyon Varlamov. The 25-year-old Russian is
27-9-5 this season with a 2.47 goals against average and .924 save percentage
and he was rewarded with a five-year, $29.5 million contract extension on
Thursday, hours before he helped Colorado hold on for a 5-4 home win over
Varlamov's extension kicks in at the start of next season and makes him
property of the Avs through the 2008-19 campaign.
Rookie Nathan MacKinnon's breakaway goal with 2:25 remaining in the third
period wound up being the game-winner for the Avalanche against the Wild.
Colorado had entered the third with a 4-1 lead, but the Wild got two goals
before MacKinnon beat Minnesota netminder Niklas Backstrom on the glove side
to make it 5-3. Minnesota's Jason Pominville scored 11 seconds after
MacKinnon, but the Wild couldn't complete the comeback.
Ryan O'Reilly, Paul Stastny, John Mitchell and Maxime Talbot also scored for
"It was a tight game and we need to figure out these third periods where we
have the lead and you know, we kind of relinquish that," said Mitchell
Varlamov made 31 saves to end the month with a 10-1-1 record and set a club
record for the most wins by a goalie in January. His 10 victories in January
also matched a franchise mark for any month, joining Craig Anderson (October
2009), Peter Budaj (March 2007) and Dan Bouchard (February 1981) in the club
Colorado improved to 18-7-3 as the host with Thursday's win and this
afternoon's test marks the club's final home tilt before the Olympic break.
The Avs will start a four-game road trip Monday in New Jersey and will
complete the swing next Saturday against the New York Islanders.
The Sabres are last in the NHL with 38 points through 53 games and Buffalo has
a poor 6-15-3 record as the road team in 2013-14. However, the Sabres have
posted wins in two of their last three away tilts and they managed to record a
3-2 regulation win Thursday at Phoenix.
Zemgus Girgensons netted the game-winner while his club was shorthanded early
in the third period, as Buffalo slipped past the Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena.
Tyler Ennis and Steve Ott also supplied offense for the Sabres. Ryan Miller
collected his second win in three starts thanks to 38 saves, and improved to
6-0-0 all-time against the Coyotes.
"We wanted to come in and play extremely hard," Ott said. "I thought we did
The win did come at a cost for the Sabres, however, as forward Matt Moulson
suffered an upper-body injury in the third period and did not return. Moulson,
who has nine goals and 15 assists in 40 games since joining the Sabres in late
October as part of the Thomas Vanek trade, is expected to miss the team's
final four games before the Olympic break.
Sabres defenseman Christian Ehrhoff is also questionable for Saturday after
missing Thursday's game with an illness.
Colorado has won six straight meetings against the Sabres, who last beat the
Avs in a 6-4 decision in Denver on Dec. 4, 2005. Buffalo has lost two straight
at Pepsi Center since that victory.
The Sports Network