Still looking for their first two-game winning streak of February, the Buffalo Sabres have a primo chance to get it Thursday night in KeyBank Center, with the hapless Colorado Avalanche in town. It's a 7:30 start on NBC Sports Network, with John Forslund and Brian Boucher on the call.
Here are Five Things to Know about the game:
1. Lineup news: Evander Kane skated full today after missing Tuesday's win in Ottawa with the flu and should be ready tonight. Coach Dan Bylsma called him a game-time decision.
"It was tough 36 hours there," said Kane, who fell ill late Monday. "I didn't feel too good. But I feel better now and I feel like I'm ready to play. ... I never like missing games. Especially something like that, usually I'm able to play through a cold or the flu. Unfortunately in Ottawa, it overtook me pretty rapidly and pretty vigorously, so it was tough."
The rest of the Sabres' lineup remains unchanged. The goaltending matchup is Robin Lehner (15-16-6, 2.55/.924) vs. Calvin Pickard (9-17-1, 3.02/.904). Lehner stopped 67 of 70 shots in splitting two games vs. Colorado last year.
As for injuries, Cody Franson (foot) was a surprise addition to the skate and there's a good chance he plays this weekend after the team thought he might be out 2-3 weeks. Zemgus Girgensons has what Bylsma called an "internal middle-body" injury but has skated on his own for two straight days.
2. The Avalanche are terrible. We're talking historically bad, as in 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.
Check out the Avs' overall numbers here:
WORST TEAMS OF THE THREE-POINT ERA
Team Year W-L-T-O Pts Pct.
ATL 1999-00 14-57-7-4 39 .238
COL 2016-17 15-37-x-2 32* .296
NYI 2000-01 21-51-7-3 52 .317
BUF 2013-14 21-51-x-10 52 .317
TBL 1999-00 19-47-9-7 54 .329
ATL 2001-02 19-47-11-5 54 .329
BUF 2014-15 23-51-x-8 54 .329
* -- current pace is 49 points. Ties were eliminated in 2005.
Source: Buffalo News research
Still, the Sabres are wary of a team whose roster includes the likes of Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, Jarome Iginla, Mikko Rantanen and Tyson Barrie.
"This is a team that's very dangerous and scary to me to look past and see where they are in the standings," Bylsma said. "They have outstanding players."
3. The Sabres are oddly terrible on Thursdays. Buffalo is 1-10-2 in Thursday games this year, with the only win their come-from-behind special Dec. 1 against the New York Rangers. They're 0-5-2 in their last seven. It's bizarre, especially when you consider Tuesday's win in Ottawa put them at 10-3-3 on that day of the week. Bylsma said he changed this week's schedule to make Wednesday a total day off, with no meetings or off-ice workouts, after the team got back from Ottawa after 2 a.m.
"We're well aware of it," Bylsma said of the Thursday record. "... Tuesdays have been a good day for us and Thursdays have been a day we'd like to be Tuesday."
4. O'Reilly meets old mates. Ryan O'Reilly was traded from Colorado to Buffalo on draft night in 2015 and had three assists in the two games against his old team last year. He said today he's baffled by the way his former team is struggling.
"It's surprising. They have a lot of great players over there," O'Reilly said. "I guess there's been a lot of bad bounces. 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."
(An aside: That minus-75 goal differential might account for a few of those bad bounces. Yikes).
It's the first game back in Buffalo for Colorado defenseman Nikita Zadorov (0-10-10/-18 in 53 games) and the second for center Mikhail Grigorenko (6-12-18/-8 in 51 games). They were the pieces sent West for O'Reilly.
5. Tough times vs. Colorado: The Sabres will be going for back-to-back home wins over Colorado for the first time since they won three straight from March 28, 1995 to Nov. 14, 1996. Buffalo was on 0-6-4 slide overall against the Avs until a 4-1 win in their last meeting here, on Feb. 14, 2016.