Buffalo Sabres Visit Devils After Being Eliminated From Playoff Contention

The New Jersey Devils open up the week with a Monday night matchup against the Buffalo Sabres at the Prudential Center. This follows their thrilling shootout win in a goaltender’s duel versus the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday afternoon.

If anyone has had a more disappointing season than the Devils, it’s the Buffalo Sabres. After years of being in the NHL basement and rebuilding, including a rebuild of the initial rebuild, the Sabres find themselves eliminated from the postseason once again. They had hope at the beginning of the season, at one time owning not only a playoff spot but a winning streak and the best points percentage in the NHL standings.

That was before everything with the Sabres went south, like a bunch of retirees from Buffalo going to Florida for the winter. Their once promising season ends with their eighth straight year out of the playoffs. Just like the Devils, both have officially been eliminated from postseason contention.

Players to Watch

Nico Hischier: After being out close to three weeks, Hischier is back to finish out the season with the Devils. Even though he was held pointless against Arizona, he played well ahead of his average time on ice, hitting 21 minutes in that game. With Hall still out with an injury, Hischier and Palmieri are the Devils’ main offensive weapons.

Drew Stafford: Considering how many games he spends watching from the press box instead of the bench, he usually is a player you don’t watch. With two goals in his past two games, the player who often doesn’t score has been finding the scoresheet recently. Perhaps he’ll keep it going with another point against Buffalo tonight.

Jack Eichel: The Sabres leading scorer this season, and the only shining spot in their failed rebuild. He missed the first game against New Jersey this year and was held scoreless in the last. Eichel also has posted more points on the road than in Buffalo this season, so expect him to try to get one past Schneider, even if the Sabres’ season is going nowhere.

Keys to Victory

Getting Healthy: After a solid month of playing a mostly AHL roster, the Devils are starting to get healthy once again. Saturday’s game saw not only Nico Hischier, but Sami Vatanen return from an injury that kept him of the lineup since March 2 in Boston. Also returning was Mirco Mueller after the scary injury he suffered during the Calgary Flames game held at Prudential Center. All three of the returning players didn’t collect a point on Saturday, but that might change tonight.

Penalty Kill: One silver lining for the Devils this season has been their penalty killing unit. Devils are ranked third in the NHL, and are tied for fourth for most short handed goals. Buffalo is also ranked in the top ten in penalty kills, but second to last in short handed goals. If the Devils have to defend against Buffalo on a man advantage, don’t be too concerned.

Nov 20, 2015; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; New Jersey Devils forward Travis Zajac (19) skates against the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Exciting Hockey: The Devils and the Sabres have nothing to play for at this point. Realistically, the Devils season has been over for a long time, but the Sabres have been left absolutely deflated after thinking they finally broke out a rebuild slump this season. Add that to the fact that a good portion of the Devils’ fanbase wants the team to tank and purposely lose and you got a recipe for a boring hockey game. If the Devils are going to lose, hopefully, they at least put up a fight and make it exciting. Give people enough excitement they feel like they got their money’s worth, even if it doesn’t end in a victory. It might not be a key to winning, but it would be a key to success.

Projected Lines

New Jersey Devils (as per Amanda Stein)

Coleman*- Zajac- Noesen
Agostino – Hischier – Palmieri
Wood – Zajac – Stafford
Gabriel – Rooney – McLeod

Greene – Severson
Mueller – Vatanen
Butcher – Carrick

Schneider (starting), Blackwood

*game-time decision

Buffalo Sabres:
Sheary – Eichel – Nylander
Skinner – Rogrigues – Pominville
Sobotka – Mittelstadt – Reinhart
Girgensons – Larsson – Okposo

Bogosian – Ristolainen
Dahlin – Montour
Scandella – Rolson


Final Score/Prediction:

The Sabres are playing for pride after another lost season, and the Devils are in no position to go on a winning streak. 3-1 Buffalo.


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