Avs hope to extend win streak over Sabres

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(SportsNetwork.com) - The Colorado Avalanche will try to halt a two-game slide and win for only the second time this month when they visit the Buffalo Sabres for Saturday's clash at First Niagara Center.

The Avalanche have managed to earn a point in three straight games (1-0-2), but have lost their last two outings in overtime. Colorado is just 1-3-3 so far in December, but hopes to pick up a second win this month by continuing its dominance of the Sabres.

Colorado has won the last seven meetings against Buffalo, which last beat the Avs on Dec. 4, 2005 in the Mile High City. The Avalanche have taken four straight in Western New York and last tasted defeat at First Niagara Center on March 24, 2003.

The Avs will continue to ride rookie goaltender Calvin Pickard tonight. With regular starter Semyon Varlamov sidelined with a groin issue, the 22-year-old has become a workhorse for head coach Patrick Roy.

Pickard will make his fourth straight start tonight and also is expected to get the call again on Sunday when Colorado completes a three-game road trip in Detroit.

Colorado fell to Pittsburgh in the opener of this swing on Thursday, but the 1-0 overtime defeat could hardly be blamed on Pickard, who turned aside 47 shots before Blake Comeau scored the lone goal at 2:24 of the extra session.

Pickard made 19 saves in the third period to force OT. He is 4-5-2 this season with a 2.27 goals against average and .934 save percentage.

"He was very solid. He played a really strong game for us, allow us to be in that game," Roy said about Pickard.

Colorado has dropped three straight road games and is 4-6-5 as the visiting team this season.

Buffalo will try to return to the win column tonight after having a season- high four-game winning streak halted Tuesday in Winnipeg. The Sabres were slammed 5-1 by the Jets in losing their first game since a road loss at Florida on Dec. 6,

The Sabres still own a six-game winning streak on home ice and haven't lost at First Niagara Center since Nov. 26 against Winnipeg. Buffalo is 9-7-2 as the host this season compared to a 4-10-0 mark on the road.

Buffalo scored the only goal of the first period, but Winnipeg grabbed control of the game with three goals in the second and two more in the third.

Nikita Zadorov scored for the Sabres, while Michal Neuvirth allowed all five goals on 36 shots in the loss.

"Maybe not physically but mentally, we just made a couple of crucial mistakes at bad times," said Buffalo head coach Ted Nolan.

Neuvirth has taken the loss in Buffalo's last two defeats. Jhonas Enroth, who has won his last four decisions, will return to the crease tonight. Enroth's only career appearance against Colorado came last season in a relief role for the Sabres. He stopped 10-of-12 shots in a 7-1 road loss at the Pepsi Center on Feb. 1.

After tonight, the Sabres will play two straight and three of their next four games on the road. Buffalo will begin that stretch tomorrow night in Boston.