New Jersey Devils (19-15-1, 39 points) vs Buffalo Sabres (17-15-3, 37 points)
7:00 PM EST
Radio: WFAN 660 AM
Tonight’s game will be the second between the Sabres and the Devils this season. The two squads last met on November 16 in Buffalo, which saw the Devils take a 5-3 win.
Larsson Returns From Sweden:
The big story for the New Jersey Devils coming into tonight’s game is the return of Adam Larsson. Larsson had been granted permission from the team to return home to Skelleftea, Sweden in order to attend funeral services for his grandmother.
Despite the dismal circumstances of his travel, and the stressful 12-hour trip, the time away from the team seems to be used to refresh the rookie, who averages 21:55 of ice time per game so far this season.
Coach Peter DeBoer told The (Bergen) Record that Larsson looks good, “I think he appreciated the trip home and we’re glad to have him back.”
Key to Winning:
*Do not put puck in own net.
Last Game Against Buffalo:
NJD (W) @ BUF (L)
Final Score: 5-3
The last time these two teams met, rookie goaltending-sensation Jhonas Enroth got the start for the Buffalo Sabres in place of the injured Ryan Miller. Going into the game, Enroth was a perfect 6-0-0 on the season and had gone nearly a full year since losing in regulation. However, the New Jersey Devils had Ilya Kovalchuk returning to the lineup after missing five games due to leg injury.
The Devils got goals from five different players in the game, including the returning Kovalchuk. Also scoring goals were Zach Parise, Mark Fayne, Patrik Elias and David Clarkson. These five goals were enough to chase Enroth from the game, halfway through the third period.
Martin Brodeur stopped 29 shots for the Devils, including a couple game savers which earned him the third star of the game.
Projected Devils Lineup:
Parise (C) – Henrique – Kovalchuk (A)
Sykora – Elias (A) – Zubrus
Tedenby – Zajac – Clarkson
Boulton – Sestito – Janssen
Salvador – Larsson
Volchenkov – Foster
Taormina – Fayne
The Latest on the Buffalo Sabres:
Heading into tonight’s game, the Sabres look to win back-t0-back games for the first time since a five game winning streak from November 4-12. In their last game, the Sabres put up four goals against the struggling Washington Capitals, in the first period alone. Ryan Miller made 20 saves in his sixth straight start to give the Sabres the win.
In the game against Washington, the Sabres powerplay put up a pair of goals, including rookie Brayden McNabb’s first career goal. The Sabres powerplay now has seven goals in the last five games, which will be a good match for the league’s best penalty-kill in New Jersey.
When it comes to statistically-hot Sabres players, captain Jason Pominville currently has three points in his last two games and 11 in his last eight. Meanwhile, the Sabres’ leading goal scorer, Thomas Vanek, has a five game point scoring streak in which he has collected eight points in that timeframe.
Projected Sabres Lineup:
Vanek (A) – Hecht – Pominville (C)
Boyes – Roy (A) – Stafford (A)
McCormick – Gaustad (A) – Kaleta
Adam – Ellis – Kassian
Ehrhoff – McNabb
Regehr – Sekera
Leopold – Weber
The Devils get their first look of the season at the Buffalo Sabres tonight. This will be the first of four meetings between the two clubs.
Devils Fall to Bruins:
It’s never easy playing the defending Stanley Cup Champions, but the Devils stayed on par with the Bruins for most of the night.
The Devils rallied from two third period deficits with Nick Palmieri scoring the Devils second and third goals giving him his first career two-goal game.
Johan Hedberg, who got the start in the front game of back-to-back games, had his moments in net, but had a couple flubs allowing soft goals to the Bruins.
The Devils came out firing with less than a minute left to play putting several scoring chances on net, but could not get the puck past Tim Thomas. The final score saw the Devils come up just short, 4-3.
Kovalchuk to Play Tonight:
Ilya Kovalchuk has been inserted back into the Devils lineup and will once again play right wing on a line with Devils captain, Zach Parise, and Adam Henrique. Kovalchuk, who has missed the last five games due to a groin injury, told the media this morning that he is excited to be back on the ice and was excited to see the powerplay unit score a goal. “We’re on fire now,” he said.
With Kovalchuk coming back into the lineup, someone must be scratched. For tonight, Coach DeBoer has elected to scratch struggling winger, Mattias Tedenby. Tedenby is looking at it in a positive light saying that it will allow him to save energy and when he gets the chance, he’s going to “go for it.” DeBoer hopes that resting Tedenby will light a spark in Tedenby’s play.
Against the Bruins:
All-time the Devils are 45-40-16-0 against the Sabres, and are 21-20-9-0 when playing in Buffalo.
Patrik Elias & Ilya Kovalchuk both have 31 points in their careers against the Sabres. Elias has 7 goals and 24 assists, while Kovalchuk has 19 goals and 12 assists. Kovalchuk, however, only has two points in four games against the Sabres since joining the Devils in February of 2010.
Dainius Zubrus has only one point (an assist) in 15 games against his former club while playing for the Devils. Tonight will mark a milestone in Zubrus’ NHL career as he plays in game number 1,000.
Martin Brodeur is 30-16-7 in his career against the Sabres with an impressive 2.17 goals against average.
Projected Devils Lineup:
Parise – Henrique – Kovalchuk
Sykora - Elias - Zubrus
Palmieri - Carter – Clarkson
Zharkov - Mills - Janssen
Greene – Larsson
Tallinder - Fayne
Volchenkov – Salvador
No Miller? No Problem:
After being hit by Boston Bruins forward Milan Lucic on Saturday, Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller was diagnosed with a concussion putting him on the shelf for an unknown amount of time.
Usually, seeing your star goaltender go down with a concussion isn’t a good sign, but Sabres fans aren’t worried at all. In net, the Sabres will have Jhonas Enroth which is a blessing in disguise. Enroth is playing better than any goaltender in the league currently. Enroth is 6-0-0 so far this season and has not lost a game in regulation since November 24 2010, in which he only gave up one goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Enroth is also 13-0-1 in his last 14 decisions.
Lindy Ruff was named head coach of the Buffalo Sabres in July of 1997. Since then, there have been 164 coaching changes in the NHL (the Devils have 13 of them with 9 different head coaches).
Ruff is the second-longest tenured coach in the four major professional sports leagues. Ahead of him is Gregg Popovich, coach of the San Antonio Spurs since 1996.
Projected Sabres Lineup:
Vanek – Roy – Pominville
Leino – Adam – Stafford
Kaleta – Gaustad – Gerbe
Eliss – McCormick – Boyes
Leopold – Regehr
Weber – Sekera
Ehrhoff – Gragnani