Avs, Sabres to meet after bolstering lineups

NHL Hockey
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The NHL trading deadline passed with no blockbuster deals, but the Colorado Avalanche and Buffalo Sabres made moves to improve their chances for the postseason.

The Sabres have won six of their last eight to get back into the playoff conversation, and they bolstered their lineup by acquiring veteran winger Wayne Simmonds from the New Jersey Devils and a young, versatile forward in Dominik Kahun from the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Both should be available when Buffalo begins a four-game Western Conference road swing at Colorado on Wednesday night.

Despite having injuries to three top-line wingers, the Avalanche didn’t make any big trades but did add depth at forward and goaltending. Colorado acquired forward Vladislav Namestnikov from the Ottawa Senators and goalie Michael Hutchinson from the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic said Tuesday the team’s busy offseason and the belief that Mikko Rantanen (upper body), Nazem Kadri (lower body) and Matt Calvert (lower body) will be back for the postseason meant he didn’t need to shake up the roster with 21 games left.

“We were looking to see what we could do to add (players), but we did a lot in the offseason,” Sakic told reporters at the team’s practice facility. “And this is a team that we really like and believe in, anyway. If there was another deal that made sense for us, we would have looked to do that, but nothing else materialized. … We love the chemistry in our dressing room and you don’t want to tinker too much with that.”

Colorado, with 79 points, is comfortably in a playoff spot after three straight wins and a 7-2-1 mark over its last 10 games. Despite losing goaltender Philipp Grubauer to a lower-body injury on Feb. 15, the Avalanche have surged behind 29-year-old rookie Pavel Francouz. He got his first NHL shutout on Friday and has allowed just two goals in the last three games.

The NHL named him the No. 1 star for his work last week.

Francouz will face a Buffalo team with momentum and now a more veteran presence in Simmonds, who has played in seven postseasons in his 12-year career.

“For Wayne, playing meaningful games in the month of March and April is something he’s very accustomed to,” Sabres general manager Jason Botterill told reporters on Monday. “I think you’ve heard (coach) Ralph (Krueger) talk a lot about net-front presence, playing a physical game. I think these are things that come natural for Wayne. We also know that we have a young group. He has a strong personality and I think his leadership is going to help our group out lot.”

Simmonds, who waived his no-trade clause to come to Buffalo, took part in practice on Tuesday ahead of the Sabres flying to Colorado. The forward said he is excited by the opportunity to help Buffalo’s push for a playoff berth.

“I think they’re going in the right direction and I thought that I could be a piece that could ultimately help this team get into the playoffs,” Simmonds said. “I’m extremely excited to be here and I can’t wait to get started.”

–Field Level Media

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