The Colorado Avalanche started their season-long, five-game homestand with a much-needed win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday and will search for mote against the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday.
Colorado’s 3-2 win over Philadelphia was its second in a row after a four-game skid (0-3-1) that coincided with another round of injuries to key players. Slowly the Avalanche are getting players back and hope to stay afloat until everyone else returns.
Artturi Lehkonen and Valeri Nichuskin are back, giving Colorado two more top-six forwards in the lineup — joining Mikko Rantanen, who has been doing what he can to keep the Avalanche winning. In the coming weeks, Colorado hopes to get Nathan MacKinnon (upper body), Gabriel Landeskog (knee) and Josh Manson (lower body) back.
Evan Rodrigues is a possibility to return against Buffalo. He hasn’t played since Nov. 23 against Vancouver due to a lower-body injury.
The Avalanche have been getting by with several call-ups from the AHL.
“I think our leadership group has done a good job of teaching these guys what it takes day in, day out to be an NHL player, to be a pro, and to get the best out of each other each and every night,” said Colorado defenseman Devon Toews, who had a goal in the win over Philadelphia. “I think it’s a good learning process for them to see a lot of these guys on a day-to-day basis on the ice, off the ice, how they recover, how they eat, all that. I think they’re taking that in.”
Buffalo is coming off of a 6-0 win against the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday night to continue the up-and-down stretch of the last three weeks. Since dropping eight straight last month — all in regulation — the Sabres are 6-3-2 in their last 11.
Goaltender Craig Anderson stopped 40 shots in the shutout win over Los Angeles and returns to the arena where he led Colorado to the playoffs in 2009-10. The 41-year-old has bounced around the league and is now with a young Buffalo team trying to stay in the playoff hunt.
Wins like Tuesday’s help.
“I think a lot of times younger teams that haven’t played the right way for too long, if they get off their game, they start trying to do too much, be individual,” Anderson said. “We didn’t do that (Tuesday), which is a huge stepping stone in our growth.”
Two of the players trying to shorten the learning curves are Jack Quinn and JJ Peterka, who are 21 and 20, respectively. Peterka has seven goals and Quinn six and have been learning on the fly.
“I think the first few games maybe they were just trying to get their feet wet a little bit, and they’ve got their swag, their confidence that they’re used to having,” Sabres center Dylan Cozens said. “It’s been a lot of fun to play with them, and I think they both adapted really quick to the NHL speed and pace. They’re both so smart, so it makes it easy to play with them.”
–Field Level Media