DENVER -- The Sabres are again facing another team's backup goaltender. The Sabres and Avalanche have taken the ice for the pregame skate, and the goalie matchup will be Ryan Miller versus the Avs' Peter Budaj. The Sabres will have faced No. 2 goalies in 18 of their 39 games, and they are 12-3-2 in their first 17.
Budaj has played just twice in the last 13 games for the Avs, who have Craig Anderson as their No. 1 netminder. Budaj has more work this season than most backups because Anderson missed 10 games with a knee injury in October and November. Budaj is 9-6-3 with a 3.05 goals-against average and .897 save percentage in 19 games. He has faced the Sabres three times, going 2-1 with a 1.46 GAA and .938 save percentage.
Miller is 0-1-1 with a 1.94 and .931 against the Avs.
The game is the first as a Colorado visitor for the Sabres' Cody McCormick, who was drafted by the Avs and spent parts of five seasons in the Mile High City.
"It’s just where I started pro, and it’s kind of where you get your feet wet and you start learning that game," he said. "It’s just a learning process that I remember coming back here. It’s a nice city, great fans. There’s always something you’re doing, and with the mountains right there it’s kind of a picturesque kind of city."
The best pictures so far were actually pitchers at the Coors Brewery Tour down the road in Golden, which I visited Monday for the second time. It's always nice to get three free sodas, with the best being Colorado Native. Unfortunately, it's only available in Colorado, so after tonight I probably won't have it again for two more hockey seasons. I'll try to get my fill, then.
9:08 p.m.: The Sabres are starting with the line of Rob Niedermayer-Paul Gaustad-Mike Grier. Game on.
9:09 p.m.: Sabres catch a break with Colorado star Paul Stastny out with the flu.
9:10 p.m.: Steve Montador told me a couple of weeks ago that attendance is up, given the numbers he heard from the NHLPA. I just don't see it. This building is more than half empty, as most of have been when the Sabres visit this season. Of course, maybe people just don't want to come watch the Sabres and fill the arenas every other night.
9:12 p.m.: Andrej Sekera goes for hooking with 16:58 to go, giving Colorado the first power play.
9:14 p.m.: Sabres kill the penalty, and Budaj stops Niedermayer as the forward streaks unobstructed to the net. Line of the year so far goes to Bucky Gleason, who in his column about the Bruins game over the weekend said the game was so wide-open that even Niedermayer almost scored.
9:18 p.m.: Some vocal fans of the Sabres as first commercial hits with 12:04 to go. No score, with teams each taking four shots.
9:23 p.m.: Avs back on the power play with 10:54 left as Gaustad goes for interference.
9:26 p.m.: The Avs have the seventh-ranked power play, but it's 0 for 2 with a pair of lackluster showings. It's 0-0 with Sabres holding a 6-5 shot edge with 8:54 left.
9:32 p.m.: Colorado takes a 1-0 lead with 5:44 left. Tyler Myers pinched in, and the Avs' TJ Galiardi got a loose puck. He flipped it over remaining defenseman Sekera, allowing Daniel Winnik to streak in alone. He fired a shot past Miller from the right faceoff dot.
9:36 p.m.: The Sabres quickly answer, thanks to a four-minute high-sticking penalty on Ryan O'Byrne. Tim Connolly passed to the goal line to Drew Stafford, who fed Thomas Vanek for a tap-in from the top of the crease with 5:11 to go.
9:38 p.m.: The Sabres give it right back with a short-handed goal. Ryan O'Reilly pressures Sekera deep in the Sabres' zone, and Winnik gets the turnover. He feeds O'Reilly across the crease to give Colorado a 2-1 lead with 3:57 left.
9:42 p.m.: Shaone Morrisonn heads to the box with 39.3 seconds left, but Colorado's Tomas Fleischmann goes for tripping with 34.5 seconds left to end the power play.
9:44 p.m.: The Sabres head to the dressing room in a 2-1 holes. The Avs have a 9-8 shot edge. It'll be four-one-four at the start of the second period.
10:01 p.m.: The Sabres have allowed an NHL-worst eight short-handed goals. They gave up just three last season. Game back on.
10:03 p.m.: Budaj stops Connolly on the doorstep with 18:54 left.
10:05 p.m.: Galiardi hits the post with 18:17 left, and the Avs take a too many men penalty with 17:54 to go.
10:08 p.m.: The Sabres kill their power play without allowing a shortie.
10:10 p.m.: Avs back on the power play as Connolly trips Matt Duchene during an Avs breakout with 14:17 left.
10:19: Budaj makes a nice stop on driving Jordan Leopold as the teams hit the commercial with 6:52 left. Colorado maintains its 2-1 lead and has a 15-14 shot edge.
10:23 p.m.: Winnik goes to the box for holding with 5:13 left.
10:28 p.m.: Stafford cuts the power play short with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty with 4:19 to go.
10:35 p.m.: Budaj stops Myers with 1.3 seconds left to preserve the Avs' 2-1 lead. The Sabres have an 18-17 shot edge as the second intermission hits.
10:53 p.m.: The Sabres are 2-16 when trailing after two periods. The Avs are 12-0 when leading after two. Game on.
10:59 p.m.: Jason Pominville continues his hot streak, ties game with 15:32 to play. Vanek threw the puck to the front, where it struck Avs defenseman John-Michael Liles. It dropped straight down, and Pominville swooped in to bury it top shelf. It's 2-2.
11:01 p.m.: Budaj shows why he's a backup as he allows the Sabres to take a 3-2 lead with 14:29 to go. Steve Montador shoots from a poor angle along the right boards but catches Budaj by surprise.
11:03 p.m.: Avs call a timeout and come right back out to tied the score, 3-3, with 13:58 left. Duchene dumps it in from the side of the net during a scrum in front.
11:09 p.m.: Ryan O'Byrne goes for cross-checking with 10:21 to go.
11:14 p.m.: It's 3-3 with 7:52 to go.
11:18 p.m.: Sabres get another chance on the power play with Adam Foote getting whistled for interference with 6:49 to go.
11:21 p.m.: Luke Adam fires into an empty net with 5:50 to go -- but the puck hits the stick of teammate Tyler Ennis inside the net and fails to completely cross.
11:30 p.m.: And we're off to overtime, tied at 3-3.
11:34 p.m.: Sabres get another power play with 4:13 to go.
11:37 p.m.: Ennis' stick comes into play again, as he takes a high-sticking penalty with 2:28 to go.
David Jones scores with 42.9 seconds left to win the game for the Avs.