Sometimes playing against your former team is just a little bit weird.
That's how Ryan O'Reilly described it Thursday morning as his Buffalo Sabres prepared to host his former team, the Colorado Avalanche, in KeyBank Center.
O'Reilly spent his first six NHL seasons with the Avs before the team dealt him to Buffalo in June 2015.
But O'Reilly's loyalties are firmly in Buffalo as the Sabres try to keep their playoff hopes alive.
"It's always a little weird having some good friends over there and being in that organization a long time," O'Reilly said. "It's always a little different. At the end of the day, these are important points for us and it's another game we have to come out and be prepared for and try to win."
With good friends still in the organization and a good chunk of his career spent in Colorado, it's surprising for O'Reilly to see this season's struggles by the Avs. The team entered Thursday's game on a four-game losing streak with just 15 wins on the season, last in the National Hockey League by 13 points.
"They have a lot of great players over there. I guess there's been a lot of bad bounces," O'Reilly said. "I haven't watched them too much but to see them that low in the standings is surprising. Those things just happen. I don't know enough about what's going on but it's unfortunate for them."
Before the bad bounces of the season there was the sudden departure of Patrick Roy who resigned as coach and vice president of hockey operations in August. Roy had coached the Avs for three seasons, including winning the Central Division title with 112 points in 2013-14. But the team did not make the playoffs the next two seasons.
"That was another surprising thing," O'Reilly said of Roy's resignation. "I was a little bit shocked by that. Talking to the guys there, it kind of came out of nowhere. What can you do? You've got to keep moving on. For the most part, I think he liked my game and we got along well. Obviously the history of myself with the contract issues is never good but that was the business side of it. I'm happy the way everything worked out here."
Colorado was not interested in giving O'Reilly a pricey, long-term deal, so they traded him before he had the chance to bolt as a free agent.
O'Reilly signed a seven-year, $52.2-million extension with the Sabres which ties him up through the 2022-23 season.
Just how bad are the Avalanche? Historically bad. The team is on pace for the second-worst season of the three-point era. As in worse than either of the Sabres' tank seasons and eclipsed only by the 1999-2000 expansion Atlanta Thrashers. The Avs have lost four straight overall, are 2-12-1 in their last 15 games and 4-22-1 in their last 27. Colorado is 8-18-1 on the road -- but 0-9-1 in its last 10, with no wins since an overtime upset Dec. 23 at Chicago.
On the Sabres' injury front, Cody Franson remained out of the lineup with a foot injury he suffered when blocking a shot in the first period against the Anaheim Ducks last Thursday. Franson was on the ice for Thursday's morning skate and there's a chance he plays this weekend after the team thought he might be out two to three weeks. Zemgus Girgensons has what Sabres' coach Dan Bylsma called an "internal middle-body" injury but has skated on his own for two straight days.
Tyler Ennis will be at the Wegmans in Williamsville (8270 Transit Rd.) from 6 to 7:15 p.m. Friday to promote "Enzo Sauce" and sign autographs.
The homemade hot sauce with a twist of buttermilk ranch dressing is available for purchase in Tops Markets and Wegmans, while an autographed version is available on the Enzo Sauce website for $20. A portion of the proceeds from sauce sales benefit Roswell Park Cancer Institute and the Matt Cook Foundation.