Rewind a couple months ago and if we’d told you that tonight’s Sabres-Avalanche game in Buffalo (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN) would be a battle between teams fighting for a spot in the playoffs, you would’ve laughed. Instead, that’s right where we are and both teams come into the game playing great lately.
Buffalo has won nine of their last 12 games and most of that credit is due to superstar goalie Ryan Miller. Miller’s outstanding play in the second half of the season has saved the Sabres’ year and has them sitting four points back of the Capitals for eighth in the East. While Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville’s offense carried them early in the year, they’ve gone cold of late.
Colorado, on the other hand, we’ve already seen this week winning in overtime against the Ducks. In that game, Gabriel Landeskog (pictured) showed why he might be the favorite for the Calder Trophy scoring the game-winner. Landeskog’s play along with how well Ryan O’Reilly has played all season have given the Avs a young push they’ve needed. The play of those guys has even inspired Paul Stastny to play better this season.
That said, if there’s a guy the Avs have to thank for playing better in the second half it’s Semyon Varlamov. He’s playing big, strong, and confident in Colorado now and it’s paying off for the Avs as they’re in the mix for the seventh and eighth spot in the Western Conference. While Colorado will have to duke it out with Phoenix, San Jose, Los Angeles, and Calgary if they can keep playing how they are now, they could wind up clear of the dog fight going on now.
Get set for the Heritage Classic with hot dog facts and more
The Winnipeg Jets host the Edmonton Oilers at the 2016 Heritage Classic at Investors Group Field this afternoon. You can watch it on NHL Network, Sportsnet, TVA Sports 2 or NHL.tv at 3 p.m. ET.
With that in mind, let’s get prepped with super-important stats about unhealthy food, interesting photos and fun facts.
Want to get an in-depth look at the rivalry between the Jets and the Oilers? NHL.com and Sportsnet both have some great retrospectives.
The CBC notes that there was rain ending in the morning but it’s expected to be cloudy. Overall, sounds like a nice climate for an outdoor hockey game. NHL.com’s Nick Cotsonika wonders if the sun’s glare might cause some issues.
The Arizona Coyotes received (mostly) good news on Sunday: Mike Smith‘s injury isn’t believed to be “severe,” even if he’s considered week-to-week, according to reporters including TSN’s Darren Dreger.
While Louis Domingue and Justin Peters isn’t the sort of goalie duo that will make shooters think twice about firing the puck, they’re both at least fairly experienced netminders.
(Considering Smith’s struggles with injuries and inconsistency, it’s not surprising that Arizona invested in a little insurance in Peters.)
Domingue is slated to start in net for the Coyotes against the New York Rangers on Sunday. It’s been a bumpy start for him so far, but Arizona has at least a theoretical advantage in that the Rangers played on Saturday.
As far as when Smith will be back? Well here’s a slight idea.
Dave Tippett does not think Mike Smith will be ready for home game vs. Colorado on Oct. 29, but he is not far from getting back on the ice.
Chances are, plenty of hockey fans – and maybe some members of the Colorado Avalanche – were uttering that question after Saturday night.
Well, we know this about Shane Harper: he scored his first two NHL goals at age 27, helping the Florida Panthers beat the Colorado Avalanche 5-2.
You can watch both of Harper’s goals in the recap video:
Harper also drew enough ire from the Avalanche to get into a bit of a skirmish following a hit.
So, who is Shane Harper?
For one thing, he’s from Valencia, California and did not go drafted.
His best junior season came in 2009-10, when he scored 42 goals and 80 points for the Everett Silvertips. He’s become quite the seasoned AHL veteran since then, and while his numbers won’t wow you, he did do enough in 2014-15 to maybe turn a head or two. Harper scored 32 goals and 50 points for the Chicago Wolves that season.
You can tell his teammates were happy for him – gentle ribbing and all – when the media asked about his career milestone: