Even with Ryan O'Reilly now on their side, the Buffalo Sabres were unable to end their prolonged struggles against the Colorado Avalanche last month.
Getting another crack at his former team, O'Reilly tries to help the Sabres avoid an 11th consecutive defeat to an Avalanche club that can complete a sweep of its three-game trip Sunday.
Deciding it would cost too much to sign O'Reilly to a long-term contract extension after six seasons in Denver, Colorado sent the talented forward to Buffalo in a five-player deal over the summer. The Sabres then signed him to a seven-year, $52.5 million contract.
In his return to Colorado on Jan. 20, O'Reilly assisted on Evander Kane's second-period power-play goal, but defenseman Francois Beauchemin broke a tie with 31.7 seconds left to give the Avs (29-25-4) a 2-1 victory.
''Once you got on the ice it's just another game,'' said O'Reilly, who leads Buffalo with 17 goals and 30 assists. ''You try to win. It wasn't too weird I guess. It was just different.''
O'Reilly should feel even more relaxed this time as the Sabres (22-28-6) try to end an 0-6-4 slide in the series. They've been held to eight goals while losing the last five in regulation.
However, Buffalo could have a little more jump after ending its 0-2-2 slide with Friday's 6-4 home victory over Montreal. Kane and Marcus Foligno each scored twice and O'Reilly had two assists as the Sabres matched their season-high goal total while almost squandering a 4-1 lead.
"We had some moments where we were bending, but we didn't break," defenseman Josh Gorges told the Sabres' official website. "We found a way to get the two points," We'll build and we'll learn from how to play in the third periods with a one-goal lead."
Buffalo has yielded 16 goals in three games and won twice in 11 at home.
That might not bode well against Colorado, which in addition to its series dominance is 11-4-0 on the road since the beginning of December and won five of the last six away from the Pepsi Center.
"We've been playing with confidence on the road," coach Patrick Roy told the Avalanche's official website.
The Avs followed an 0-3-1 post-All-Star break homestand by winning 4-3 at Ottawa on Thursday then 3-2 in a shootout at Detroit one night later. Colorado was outshot 45-21 by the Red Wings, but Semyon Varlamov stopped all but two to improve to 14-3-3 when making 40 or more saves.
"When you see him play like that, it gives you a lot of confidence," said teammate Mikhail Grigorenko, who was also part of the O'Reilly trade.
Varlamov has a 1.84 goals-against average and a .950 save percentage while winning seven of eight on the road. Following his 27-save performance in last month's meeting, the veteran netminder has a 1.65 GAA during a six-game winning streak against the Sabres.
Robin Lehner made 33 saves at Colorado in January, but has yielded nine goals in his last two starts.
O'Reilly's gone 15 games without a goal but has 12 assists during that span. Kane has scored five of his 15 goals in the last seven.
Colorado's Matt Duchene has recorded 17 of his team-leading 25 goals on the road. He has three in three games at Buffalo.