Avs hope to extend win streak over Sabres

(SportsNetwork.com) – The Colorado Avalanche will try to halt a two-game slide
and win for only the second time this month when they visit the Buffalo Sabres
for Saturday’s clash at First Niagara Center.

The Avalanche have managed to earn a point in three straight games (1-0-2),
but have lost their last two outings in overtime. Colorado is just 1-3-3 so
far in December, but hopes to pick up a second win this month by continuing
its dominance of the Sabres.

Colorado has won the last seven meetings against Buffalo, which last beat the
Avs on Dec. 4, 2005 in the Mile High City. The Avalanche have taken four
straight in Western New York and last tasted defeat at First Niagara Center on
March 24, 2003.

The Avs will continue to ride rookie goaltender Calvin Pickard tonight. With
regular starter Semyon Varlamov sidelined with a groin issue, the 22-year-old
has become a workhorse for head coach Patrick Roy.

Pickard will make his fourth straight start tonight and also is expected to
get the call again on Sunday when Colorado completes a three-game road trip in
Detroit.

Colorado fell to Pittsburgh in the opener of this swing on Thursday, but the
1-0 overtime defeat could hardly be blamed on Pickard, who turned aside 47
shots before Blake Comeau scored the lone goal at 2:24 of the extra session.

Pickard made 19 saves in the third period to force OT. He is 4-5-2 this season
with a 2.27 goals against average and .934 save percentage.

“He was very solid. He played a really strong game for us, allow us to be in
that game,” Roy said about Pickard.

Colorado has dropped three straight road games and is 4-6-5 as the visiting
team this season.

Buffalo will try to return to the win column tonight after having a season-
high four-game winning streak halted Tuesday in Winnipeg. The Sabres were
slammed 5-1 by the Jets in losing their first game since a road loss at
Florida on Dec. 6,

The Sabres still own a six-game winning streak on home ice and haven’t lost at
First Niagara Center since Nov. 26 against Winnipeg. Buffalo is 9-7-2 as the
host this season compared to a 4-10-0 mark on the road.

Buffalo scored the only goal of the first period, but Winnipeg grabbed control
of the game with three goals in the second and two more in the third.

Nikita Zadorov scored for the Sabres, while Michal Neuvirth allowed all five
goals on 36 shots in the loss.

“Maybe not physically but mentally, we just made a couple of crucial mistakes
at bad times,” said Buffalo head coach Ted Nolan.

Neuvirth has taken the loss in Buffalo’s last two defeats. Jhonas Enroth, who
has won his last four decisions, will return to the crease tonight. Enroth’s
only career appearance against Colorado came last season in a relief role for
the Sabres. He stopped 10-of-12 shots in a 7-1 road loss at the Pepsi Center
on Feb. 1.

After tonight, the Sabres will play two straight and three of their next four
games on the road. Buffalo will begin that stretch tomorrow night in Boston.