The Buffalo Sabres are big favorites at home on Thursday night as they host the Colorado Avalanche on NBCSN. The Sabres are on the fringe of playoff contention in the Eastern Conference while the Avalanche are hopelessly out of the race. It is getting to the point with Colorado where they are almost an automatic go-against in every game they play. The franchise is a mess, the coach is in over his head and the players are discouraged.
This war on the ice will go down Thursday, February 16, 2017, at 7:30 p.m. ET at KeyBank Center. The game will be televised live on NBCSN.
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The Avalanche are playing their fourth game of a five-game road trip. They were off on Wednesday but it is still the third game in five days for Colorado and the first half of a back-to-back as they visit Carolina on Friday. Colorado was 8-18 in their first 26 road games with 10 games going over, 13 going under with 3 pushes.
Colorado is going to be a big underdog in this game as they are simply an awful team. They don’t score many goals, their defense is bad and their goaltending is nothing special. The Avalanche have a coach in Jared Bednar that simply shouldn’t be an NHL head coach and they have a GM in Joe Sakic that has no idea of how to put together a roster. There is a reason that Patrick Roy jumped ship as this franchise has no clue.
Buffalo was off on Wednesday after playing in Ottawa on Tuesday. The Sabres are just 13-14 at home this season with nine games going over, 16 going under with two pushes.
The Avalanche are terrible all the way around. They are next to last on the power play at 14.5% and last in goals at 2 per contest. The Avalanche are 25th in penalty killing at 78.2% and they are last in goals allowed at 3.4 per contest.
The Sabres are first in the league on the power play at 23.4%. It is somewhat surprising the Sabres are scoring just 2.4 goals per game with a great power play. The Sabres are awful on the penalty kill as they are 29th in the league at 74%. They are 15th in goals allowed at 2.8 per contest.
The Avalanche have had to play Calvin Pickard in all of their games since Semyon Varlamov got hurt. Pickard is 9-18 with a 3.02 goals against average. The backup is Jeremy Smith and it may not be long before he starts to get playing time.
The Sabres have Robin Lehner and Anders Nilsson in goal. Lehner is 14-22 with a 2.57 goals against average while Nilsson is 9-11 with a 2.67 goals against average.
The Sabres are just barely in playoff contention but they have to start winning games or they will have no chance to make up ground. Lehner recently ripped into the team for their poor play.
“We make two plays, score two goals and that’s about it. It’s not even disappointing anymore. I’m starting to get angry,” said Lehner, “This is all talk. We’ve got to look ourselves in the mirror here. It’s disrespectful. I think it’s disrespectful when we have a game plan and go through things.”
Head coach Dan Bylsma did not disagree with his goalie. “It’s not disrespectful to me, it’s disrespectful to the game and the process,” Bylsma said. “We’re not a team that’s a championship team. We’re not a team that’s won anything yet and that’s what we’re trying to get.”
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The Sabres are not a great team but Colorado is simply awful. I can’t make any real case for taking the Avalanche so I will take Buffalo in this contest.
NHL Odds: Sabres 4, Avalanche 2
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