The Buffalo Sabres visit Denver tonight as part 1 of 3 in a three game Western Conference road trip.  Read the pre-game at WGR550.com.

The Sabres scored 6(7 if you count the shootout) goals without Derek Roy on January 1st.  The Sabres are in 12th place in the Eastern Conference with 36 points.  The 8th place Montreal Canadiens have 45 points.  The Colorado Avalanche are in 8th place in the Western Conference.  Tonight is the only time these two teams will meet this season.  The last two matchups have ended in shootouts.

The first time I heard the name ‘Paul Stastny’ my first reaction was to think, ‘He’s still in the league?’.  Of course Paul Stastny is the son of Quebec Nordiques Peter Stastny.  Paul Stastny is out with the flu tonight for the Aves.

Peter Budaj is in net for the Aves and Ryan Miller gets the start for Buffalo.  Where is Rick Jeanneret?  I know he usually skips the long road trips, but it seems he’s been absent for most of the recent games.  I suppose we should be lucky he’s still at it.  You appreciate him when he’s gone.  Tonight Kevin Sylvester will handle the play by play duties.

Cody McCormick is facing his former team.  #8 was signed away from the Aves before the 2009-10 season.

Period One:

Tonight’s Lines:  Buffalo is dressing 7 D so the lines will look a bit strange tonight.

1) Pominville-Connolly-Vanek

2) Stafford-Hecht-Niedermayer

3) Grier-Gaustad-Niedermayer/Ennis

4) Adam-McCormick-Ennis

Defense: Myers-Sekera, Montador-Leopold, Weber-Morrisonn, Rivet (7th Defenseman)

Aves defenseman Ryan Wilson with a long shot; save Miller!  A Leopold Laser that cuts through and barely dribbles wide of the Colorado net!  Andrej Sekera takes a hooking penalty and the Aves go on the power play.  Ryan Miller shows what he’s worth with some flashy saves.  Mike Grier clears the puck for the Sabres.  Rob ‘Gray Hair’ Niedermayer  taps it past the Colorado point-man and is off to the races shorthanded.  He takes a long shot that is saved by Budaj.  Penalty Kill over.

Jason Pominville finds Tim Connolly waiting on teh doorstep and throws a bounce-pass towards #19.  Connolly swings and connects whacking it wide of net!  There’s a guy wearing a Grateful Dead Sabres T-shirt right behind Lindy Ruff.  A good defensive play by Tim Connolly followed by an interference call on Paul Gaustad.  Aves to the power-play.  The Sabres successfully kill this one off and return to full strength.

Tim Connolly is wearing a full face shield due to facial reconstructive surgery after a check from behind a few weeks back.  The pace of play is exciting here in Denver but the ice is apparently shitty.  Rob Ray comments on the snow buildup, bouncing pucks and general poor condition of the ice.

Tyler Myers pinches deep in the slot and the Aves get it & break out.  TJ Galiardi lofts the puck over a leaping Andrej Sekera and lands it in stride with Daniel Winnik who streaks in on net and fires a wrister past Ryan Miller.  1-0 Aves 14:16 into period one.

Colorado’s David Jones with ablistering slapper right on Miller; Save Miller!  Knock Knock; Who’s there?  It’s the Sabres and they have an answer!  Tyler Ennis gets a high stick in the face and there’s blood so it is of the 4-minute variety.  The Sabres waste no time.  Face-off win-> up to Leopold->down low to Stafford-> to Connolly-> back to Stafford-> across to Thomas Vanek who takes 0.145 seconds to snap it 2 feet into the far side past Peter Budaj.  1-1 game!      

Craig Rivet is out there with a rare shift as the 7th dressed defenseman.  Two minutes left on the power-play; Andrej Sekera blindly drops it on his own half-wall.  Daniel Winnik picks it up & leaves it on the wall for Ryan O’Reilly.  O’Reilly slides a pass back to Winnik who is smartly camped out in front and tips it past Ryan Miller for a 2-1 Colorado lead.

Shaone Morrisonn is getting physical as he drills TJ Galiardi into the cross-bar.  Tomas Fleischman takes a tripping call with 35 seconds left to put Buffalo on the Power play.  Period ends 2-1 Aves in the lead.  Shots are nearly even as Colorado leads 9-8 in that category.

Rob Ray looks like Michael Myers during his intermission interview due to the darkness in the Arena.  There’s an interesting mix of people in the Colorado Arena corridors.  We’ve got guys in cowboy hats mixing with your standard Canadian looking jersey wearing fans.  I spot a Steve Yzerman jersey in the background.   

Period Two:

They show Adam Foote on the bench.  He is playing in his 20th season and his 1,135th game today.  My friend comments, ‘Adam Foote looks like he’s going to come out and shake a stick at some kids to get off his lawn.’  He’s older than everyone else and he looks it.   

Tim Connolly with a chance around the net.  Leopold and Vanek get chances and are foiled by Budaj.  Nice play by Montador to D-up Tomas Fleischmann who tries to sneak out of the penalty box.  David Jones with a golden opportunity; Ryan Miller steals his gold as Jones shoots the puck into Miller’s sprawled out leg pad.  Too many men on the ice for Colorado; another PP for the Sabres.  Luke Adam stands his ground and gets into it in front of the net.  The power play is otherwise awful as Tyler Myers passes to ‘nobody’ and has the puck cleared one of several times.

There’s a sign in the stands, ‘Razor 4 Pres’.  Rob Ray gets a good chuckle and says he had to pay the fans to put up the sign.  The Sabres are getting good pressure as Pomminville and Sekera take turns shooting on net.  Super-Sophomore Matt Duchene gets tripped by Tim Connolly as he streaks down the wing.  He’s not stopping! as he stands back up and gets off a shot that Miller struggles to save.

Colorado’s Shattenkirk, who leads all rookie Defenseman with 19 points teams up with Old Man Foote, and John-Michael Liles to put the pressure on Ryan Miller.  Miller is up to the task with three great saves.  J Pominville with a nice shorthanded outlet to Paul Gaustad.  Gaustad’s shot is blocked but the Penalty is over.  Matt Duchene is well defended in the slot as he shoots wide.  The pesky Duchene steals it back & has a give & go with Foote as Ryan Miller once again bails out his careless teammates.

Jordan Leopold rips it and Pommer tips it; Save Budaj.  Steve Montador comes fishing for rebounds and gets a nice piece of the goalie.  John-Michael Liles takes offense and lets Montador smell his glove.  Thomas Vanek won’t be left out as he loses his bucket in the process.  Everyone skates away as cooler heads prevail.

Daniel Winnik tries a pirrouete move around Mike Weber and lassos Weber around the neck for a nice take-down.  Power-play Buffalo!  John Michael Liles is sporting some crazy-hair as Kevin Sylvester puts it.  His locks are shooting out of his helmet in every direction.  It looks like a Sabres home game in here.  Tons of Sabres jerseys and homemade signs in the crowd.  I see a Thurman Thomas Bills jersey!  ’Nate from Lockport’ wants everyone at home to know he’s attending tonight’s game as his personalized poster is spotted by the cameras.

All of the sudden the whistle blows and Drew Stafford gets an unsportsmanlike penalty.  It’s concluded that he said something not nice to the referee.  We will play 4 on 4 for a few minutes.  Tim Connolly to Tyler Myers; shot, Save!  Mike Weber a quick shot; Ping! off the outside post.  Shaone Morrisonn with some physical D as he steps up at center ice on O’Reilly.  Cody McCormick won’t be left out as he gets off a quick shot; Save Budaj!  Rebound! Nobody’s there to put it in.  Colorado’s Kevin Porter is the assassin and he snaps a shot.  Mike Weber is the Secret Service as he dives in front of Miller and takes the bullet! 

Paul gaustad is unable to handle a pass from J Pominville as he misses a chance right beside the net.  Steve Montador gets away with a cross check to the back of TJ Galiardi.  galiardi is hurt and goes to the locker room.  Jochen Hecht makes a veteran steal and passes to Mike Grier who shoots it wide.  Tyler Myers with a last second shot that is saved.  Pominville was waiting but Peter Budaj was offering no rebounds.  This game offered no scoring in period two.  Still 2-1 Aves.  Sabres led 10-8 in shots in period two.  

Nice expose on Zack Kassian during intermission.  As a fan I am salivating to get Kassian on the team.  A coach interviewed says, ‘ He’s a Bull in a China-shop type of player.’  Type in ‘Zack Kassian’ to Youtube if you need to be convinced of this guy’s attributes. 

Period Three:

Jochen Hecht is up to his veteran trickery as he steals a John-Michael Liles pass and rips a long shot on net.  Big Men in Front!  Gaustad, Grier, and Weber all in on a scramble in front that yields no fruit.  Grier gets back on D as the Aves break out.  Hecht lobs it towards net and Tyler Myers charges the net and knocks it off its moorings as play is halted.  Luke Adam takes a run at Dupuis who ducks as Adam flies into the Sabres bench!  Mike Weber throws a hard shoulder into Matt Duchene but Duchene perseveres and gets a shot on Miller.  Thomas Vanek with a bad angle shot.  There’s a rebound and J Pomminville pounces on it and roofs it past Budaj.  Jochen Hecht slaps it back into the net for good measure and it’s a good thing he did because Pominville actually didn’t score as the puck had gone off the crossbar.  Hecht is credited with the goal.  2-2 game at 4:28 of period three.

Steve Montador with a bad angle shot. And it’s in the net!  Off of Budaj’s pad and into the net for a 3-2 Buffalo lead!  Colorado takes a timeout and it pays immediate dividends.  There’s a mad scramble in front, Weber is down, Miller is down and matt Duchene is standing up with his arms in the air because he just scored to tie it at 3. 

Ryan Wilson with a point shot; stick save Miller.  Tyler Ennis loses the puck and Leopold blocks the shot.  Leopold is hurt as he needs assistance walking to the locker room.  Ryan O’Byrne takes a 2 minute cross-checking penalty in front of his own net and the Sabres head to the PP.  Jochen Hecht with two swings at it, but no goal.  Stafford with along shot, Montador with a shot in close.  No luck!  Pominville with a blast from the point; Glove Save Budaj!  Good news; Jordan Leopold is back on the ice albeit skating a bit slower.

Thomas Vanek winds up in the slot and sends a rocket just wide.  Vanek charges the net and Adam Foote is forced to trip the Austrian.  Foote is not pleased with the call.  Tyler Ennis with some nifty moves gets it on net witha wrap around.  The puck falls to Luke Adam who slides it into an empty net only to be stopped by the stick of teammate Tyler Ennis who had been thrown into the crease.  Score stays tied at 3 goals a piece.

Tyler Myers with a long shot.  Save, no rebound.  Galiardi with a quick snapper from the top of the left face-off circle for Colorado; save Miller as the puck dribbles wide.  Gaustad rips one wide on teh Avalanche net.  Tim Connolly with a nice check on Matt Duchene behind the Sabres net.  The horn sounds as Cody McCormick and Ryan O’Byrne get acquainted.  No gloves are dropped however. 

And we’re going to Ovvveeeerrrrrtttiiiimmmeeee!!!!

Overtime:

4 on 4 hockey.  Tomas Fleischmann likes 4 on 4 play as he gets a shot off on Miller.  Fleischmann again knifes thru the Sabres D and takes a backhand chance which Miller sprawls to stop.  Vanek gets tripped up by Milan Hejduk and much to the chagrin of the Colorado fans we will play 4 on 3 for 2 minutes.  Tyler Myers with a big blast, Hecht has the rebound and puts it just wide.  Tyler Ennis gets a stick up on a Colorado player and evens up the power at 3 players a piece for 15 seconds.  Colorado takes the advantage with 2 minutes remaining and proceeds to barrage Miller with shots.  Miller stands tall until Fleischmann streaks down the left side, tosses it in front to David Jones who roofs it for the 4-3 Colorado OT victory.  NHL.com Game recap

What I liked:

1) The Sabres aren’t sitting around pouting that Derek Roy is out for the season.  Players like Connolly and Pominville are stepping up and contributing offense.

2) Shaone Morrisonn is a physical presence.  With Weber & Morrisonn we’ve got two big tough defenseman.  I like it.

3) Tons of Sabres fans in attendence showing their Buffalo pride.

4) Jochen Hecht made his presence felt with good offensive and defensive plays.  it’s about time we got something out of him.

What I didn’t like:

1) Too many wild scrambles in front of Ryan Miller.  That’s no way to play defense if you’re going to win.

2) Sekera and Myers looked ‘Young’ on teh first goal.  Myers getting caught and Sekera not getting back to cover Winnik.

3) Shorthanded goals are never good and the Sabres gave one up tonight.

4) The Sabres did nothing in Overtime with a 4 on 3 advantage.  In my opinion 4 v 3 is the best power play you can have and they wasted it.

Next Game: Thursday at San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion.