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.
The addition of Cody Hodgson to the team has helped balance out their lines, but he’s yet to score a point as a Sabre, something that had Hodgson practicing on the fourth line yesterday. If Hodgson’s arrival has done anything of late, it’s inspired Tyler Ennis to play better. He scored twice in the Sabres win over Montreal including a spectacular highlight reel special.
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.