(WGR 550) – Tyson Jost has played 321 of his 365 NHL games with the Colorado Avalanche after being drafted with the 10th overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft.
The Buffalo Sabres forward has played against his old teammates before, but Thursday will be his first game back in Denver against his former team.
“It’ll be interesting," said Jost on his upcoming return Thursday night. "It’ll be nice to see everyone and see some of the staff, ex teammates and friends. It’ll be a little weird playing there, but it’ll be fun, for sure.”
Jost has seemed to fit in well with the Sabres since being acquired on waivers from the Minnesota Wild. In 11 games, he has a goal and two assists.
“The coaching staff has been outstanding, and Don’s been just tremendous with his communication and the way he lets us play," Jost said. "It’s just easier to get into a rhythm too, because I know what they want out of me. So I’ve loved every second so far. The guys, the coaching staff, the fans and the city.”
When the Avalanche were in Buffalo back on Dec. 1, Alex Tuch scored late to pull the Sabres to within a goal. However, Colorado scored an empty-netter to win, 6-4. Buffalo played even with the defending Stanley Cup champions at 5-on-5, but the Sabres gave, what was at that point, the NHL’s best power play six opportunities, and they scored on three of them.
Jost knows that just won’t work going forward.
“We had a stretch of four or five games where we were always in the box, and we said in the locker room that when we play 5-on-5, that we can beat any team in this league," he said. "They have a lot of skilled players, and they’re good on the power play, so we can’t give them that opportunity.”
Colorado won’t have Nate MacKinnon, as he’s missed four games with an upper-body injury.
When folks talk about the Avalanche, they mention MacKinnon and Cale Makar, but Mikko Rantanen is their leading scorer with 19 goals and 17 assists for 36 points in 27 games. In his career over 82 games, Rantanen averages 35 goals and 49 assists for 84 points.
“He’s so big, and his puck touches are just so great," Jost said of his former teammate. "He comes out of corners and he can use his size, but his skill is just amazing, and he’s got such a good shot. He’s an awesome guy, too.”
Jost’s first game with the Sabres was back on Nov. 22, which was the same night Mattias Samuelsson returned from injury. It was thought they’d really improve the penalty kill, but in those 11 games, Buffalo is still only 22nd in the NHL, killing off 73.2% of their penalties. Overall, the Sabres are 27th, killing 71.4% of their shorthanded situations.
The Sabres still lead the league, averaging 3.93 goals per-game, but being 6-3-2 in their last 11 games hasn’t done anything for them in the standings. They’re actually worse off, trailing the New York Rangers by seven points for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with now six teams they have to leap over instead of five.
Buffalo has risen to second in the NHL with the extra man, scoring 29.2% of the time.
Dylan Cozens has had three points in four out of his last six games. Tage Thompson has 10 goals and eight assists for 18 points in eight games. Alex Tuch has seven goals and 12 assists for 19 points in 14 games. Peyton Krebs has three goals this season, and they’ve all been scored in the last four games.
Jeff Skinner will serve the final game of his three-game suspension on Thursday.
Colorado has won two in-a-row, but it had lost four-straight before that. The power play has fallen behind the Sabres, and is down to fourth in the league thanks to a recent slump where they’ve gone 0-for-11 in the last four games, and 1-for-19 since the Sabres game.
Pavel Francouz has played the last two games in goal, giving up two goals in each game. He’s 4-5-0 this season with a 2.80 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage.
The Avalanche acquired Alexandar Georgiev from the Rangers, and he’s 11-5-2 this season with a 2.65 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage.
I said earlier that Rantanen has 19 goals. He’s the only Colorado player in double figures this season.
Join Brian Koziol and myself for pregame coverage on WGR starting at 8 p.m. EST when you’ll hear from Granato, Jost and Casey Fitzgerald.