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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Saturday, February 1st (All times Eastern)

Buffalo Sabres (15-30-8) at Colorado Avalanche (34-14-5), 3 p.m.

(SportsNetwork.com) - The Colorado Avalanche will aim for a third straight victory when they welcome the lowly Buffalo Sabres for Saturday's afternoon battle at the Pepsi Center.

Colorado has played terrific hockey of late, going 11-3-1 over the last 15 games, but the club is still running third in the Central Division and the Avs are four points behind the second-place Blues.

One of the biggest reasons for Colorado's surprisingly successful season has been the play of No. 1 goaltender Semyon Varlamov. The 25-year-old Russian is 27-9-5 this season with a 2.47 goals against average and .924 save percentage and he was rewarded with a five-year, $29.5 million contract extension on Thursday, hours before he helped Colorado hold on for a 5-4 home win over Minnesota.

Varlamov's extension kicks in at the start of next season and makes him property of the Avs through the 2008-19 campaign.

Rookie Nathan MacKinnon's breakaway goal with 2:25 remaining in the third period wound up being the game-winner for the Avalanche against the Wild.

Colorado had entered the third with a 4-1 lead, but the Wild got two goals before MacKinnon beat Minnesota netminder Niklas Backstrom on the glove side to make it 5-3. Minnesota's Jason Pominville scored 11 seconds after MacKinnon, but the Wild couldn't complete the comeback.

Ryan O'Reilly, Paul Stastny, John Mitchell and Maxime Talbot also scored for the Avalanche.

"It was a tight game and we need to figure out these third periods where we have the lead and you know, we kind of relinquish that," said Mitchell

Varlamov made 31 saves to end the month with a 10-1-1 record and set a club record for the most wins by a goalie in January. His 10 victories in January also matched a franchise mark for any month, joining Craig Anderson (October 2009), Peter Budaj (March 2007) and Dan Bouchard (February 1981) in the club annals.

Colorado improved to 18-7-3 as the host with Thursday's win and this afternoon's test marks the club's final home tilt before the Olympic break. The Avs will start a four-game road trip Monday in New Jersey and will complete the swing next Saturday against the New York Islanders.

The Sabres are last in the NHL with 38 points through 53 games and Buffalo has a poor 6-15-3 record as the road team in 2013-14. However, the Sabres have posted wins in two of their last three away tilts and they managed to record a 3-2 regulation win Thursday at Phoenix.

Zemgus Girgensons netted the game-winner while his club was shorthanded early in the third period, as Buffalo slipped past the Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena. Tyler Ennis and Steve Ott also supplied offense for the Sabres. Ryan Miller collected his second win in three starts thanks to 38 saves, and improved to 6-0-0 all-time against the Coyotes.

"We wanted to come in and play extremely hard," Ott said. "I thought we did that tonight."

The win did come at a cost for the Sabres, however, as forward Matt Moulson suffered an upper-body injury in the third period and did not return. Moulson, who has nine goals and 15 assists in 40 games since joining the Sabres in late October as part of the Thomas Vanek trade, is expected to miss the team's final four games before the Olympic break.

Sabres defenseman Christian Ehrhoff is also questionable for Saturday after missing Thursday's game with an illness.

Colorado has won six straight meetings against the Sabres, who last beat the Avs in a 6-4 decision in Denver on Dec. 4, 2005. Buffalo has lost two straight at Pepsi Center since that victory.

02/01 10:43:38 ET

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Final
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3rd
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UNC 20
 
6:00pm Tonight
TOWSN
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PRES 0
 
Final
KAN 2
DET 3
Final
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LOS 7
7th
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6th
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TOR 4
 
7th
COL 5
ARI 1
 
7:05pm Tonight
BAL
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MIA
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8:40pm Tonight
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Final
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BGU 17
Final
MSU 73
EMICH 14
Final
VT 24
GT 27
Final
PITT 20
IOWA 24
Final
RICE 42
ODU 45
Final
UGA 66
TROY 0
Final
SYR 20
MD 34
 
Final
DUKE 47
TULA 13
Final
COL 21
HAW 12
 
Final
AKR 17
MARS 48
 
4th
WAKE 17
ARMY 21
 
3rd
KU 10
CMICH 3
 
3rd
ALA 21
UF 21
 
2nd
FIU 0
LOU 14
 
3rd
ECU 42
UNC 20
 
3rd
NAVY 17
RUTG 31
 
3rd
SMU 3
TEXAM 48
 
4th
MICH 10
UTAH 20
 
3rd
BYU 20
UVA 16
 
3rd
WYO 10
FATL 13
 
3rd
MIZZ 17
IND 17
 
3rd
PSU 34
UMASS 0
 
3rd
MINN 17
SJST 7
 
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6:00pm Tonight
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6:00pm Tonight
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1st
NCSU 0
PRES 0