Sabres aim to end homestand with win over Avalanche
The Buffalo Sabres have one more home game before they hit the road for the first time this season.
They would like nothing better than to make it three wins in a row Thursday night when they host the Colorado Avalanche at KeyBank Center.
It will conclude a four-game homestand that opened the Sabres' season. They will play their next five games on the road.
After hearing boos when they dropped their season opener 4-0 to the Boston Bruins on Oct. 4, they have defeated the New York Rangers 3-1 on Saturday and the Vegas Golden Knights 4-2 on Monday.
Jack Eichel, 21, the Sabres' newly appointed captain, scored twice Monday to give Buffalo (2-1-0) more wins than losses for the first time since the third game of the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. It had been 457 games, dating to Jan. 24, 2013, since Buffalo had more wins than losses.
"The things you can control are your compete, your attitude and your work," Eichel said. "If we do that and stick together and compete for each other, I think there's a lot of good things that can happen. ... I like the direction in which our group is going right now."
The Avalanche (2-1-0) lost 5-2 to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday in their first road game of the season. Colorado will try to come out with more jump from the start at Buffalo.
"I don't want to take anything away from Columbus, because they had a good first period," Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. "But we stood around. We weren't ready to start. So, when you stand around, it's pretty easy to move the puck around you. It's also the reason why we had three penalties in five, six minutes of the first period. When you're not moving your legs, and not skating, teams are going to move it around and you're going to take penalties. That's what happened."
Philipp Grubauer made his first start in goal for Colorado, with Semyon Varlamov, who had started the two wins, backing up. Varlamov is likely to start Thursday.
After falling behind 2-0 in the first period Tuesday, the Avalanche tied the game before the Blue Jackets regained control with three third-period goals, including one into an empty net.
"Second period was great," said Grubauer, who allowed four goals on 34 shots. "First one and third one, that's where we ran into some trouble. You play the right way in the second (but) you have to play the right way for 60 minutes, not one period."
The Avalanche must be prepared to play a Sabres team that is willing to work with Eichel leading the way.
"He's made a commitment to do it every day, not just when we're under the bright lights," Sabres right winger Kyle Okposo said of Eichel. "He's done a really good job in practice of setting the tone and setting the pace. He's the best player on our team and if he's the hardest worker every day, the team is going to follow him."
"It's really, really early but we've put in the work throughout the summer and in training camp," Sabres right winger Jason Pominville said. "It's a different vibe, a different atmosphere. It's definitely nice to be able to get the start that we have had for sure."
Sabres defenseman Zach Bogosian (lower-body injury) skated with the team Wednesday for the first time since he was injured Sept. 25 and will need more practice time before he returns to the lineup.
Centers Vladimir Sobotka (upper body), who was injured in the season opener, and Johan Larsson (lower body), who has not played this season, have returned to practice but coach Phil Housley said their status has not been determined for Thursday.
Avalanche defenseman Patrik Nemeth (upper body) will return to the lineup Thursday and center Vladislav Kamenev will probably make his season debut. Nemeth was injured in the season opener Oct. 4 against the Minnesota Wild.
Kamenev was recalled by the Avalanche Sunday after playing two games with the Colorado Eagles of the American Hockey League. Kamenev has five games of NHL experience, three with the Avalanche last season after being acquired in a trade with the Nashville Predators Nov. 5. He missed 50 games in 2017-18 with a broken arm.
"It is a good time to give him an opportunity," Bednar said. "He's played a couple games over the weekend, he's been up and practiced for a few days and is energized and ready to go."
Updated October 10, 2018