It’s not looking good for the Colorado Avalanche, but they haven’t given up hope just yet.
The Avalanche continue their desperate playoff push Saturday night as they go for a ninth consecutive win over the NHL-worst Buffalo Sabres, who could be looking forward to hitting the road following a controversial reaction from their fans.
Colorado (34-28-12) is tied with San Jose for 11th place in the Western Conference, 10 points behind Winnipeg for the second wild-card spot with eight games remaining.
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"This team has shown enough character and perseverance that we are not going to quit," forward Gabriel Landeskog said. "It doesn’t matter where we are in the standings. We play for pride and we play for each other and we play for the crest on our jersey."
The Avalanche had lost three in a row before closing a 2-2-1 trip with Thursday’s 4-1 win over Vancouver as Landeskog and Alex Tanguay each had goal and an assist. Landeskog has 23 points over the last the 20 games, and Tanguay has a goal in three straight and six of 10.
Reto Berra also came up big with 33 saves to earn his first win since Nov. 6.
"We are desperate, we know where the standings are and we would have to win out to give ourselves a chance," forward Jarome Iginla said. "But guys came into this game and we talked and said just try to win this game. Don’t think about the big picture or what are the odds, just enjoy this game."
Colorado has enjoyed itself against the Sabres of late. The Avalanche have averaged 3.9 goals in winning eight straight in the series, including a 5-1 victory Dec. 20. Tanguay had two goals and an assist while Iginla had a season-high three assists.
Buffalo (20-46-8) has lost four straight and 11 of 12 after falling 4-3 in overtime to Arizona on Thursday. After Matt Hackett allowed the winning goal, Sabres fans cheered as their team inched closer to securing the best odds for the No. 1 overall pick in next year’s draft.
"I don’t even know if disappointed is the word," defenseman Mike Weber told the team’s official website. "I’ve never been a part of something like that where the away team comes into a home building and they’re cheering for them.
"This is extremely frustrating for us. We don’t want to be here. We understand where we are. We understand what this team’s doing, what the organization’s doing, the place we put ourselves in."
Though the lottery distractions won’t go away, the Sabres’ focus remains on the ice. Buffalo is six points below Arizona for the league’s worst record.
"It’s real tough. We’re doing a good job of keeping it out of the room and that’s why losses like this are so tough," captain Brian Gionta said. "We play the game for each other in this room. We have great fans so I’m not going to say anything further."
Gionta had a goal and an assist Thursday, giving him seven points in the last six games.
Anders Lindback, 1-7-2 in his last 10 starts, will make his ninth start for Buffalo since being acquired from Dallas. His only appearance against the Avalanche this season was a bad one while with the Stars, losing 5-2 on Nov. 29.
Lindback will need to be wary of Ryan O’Reilly, who has four goals and seven assists during a six-game point streak. O’Reilly has totaled seven points during a five-game run against Buffalo.
The Sabres will likely have to get by without Tyler Ennis due to an upper-body injury suffered Thursday.