The Buffalo Sabres will travel to the Prudential Center on Tuesday evening to take on the New Jersey Devils for the first game of a two-game set. This will be the fourth time that these teams will face off against one another as they played on Saturday in New Jersey and the Sabres won 3-2 after leading 3-0 for most of the game. The Buffalo Sabres (5-7-2, 12 points) are last in the East Division and are playing against the New York Islanders on Monday night. The New Jersey Devils (6-5-2, 14 points) are seventh in the East Division and are riding a two-game losing streak after dropping a 4-3 game to the Washington Capitals on the road after leading 3-1 going into the third intermission.
These teams have both played a handful of games since they were forced to postpone part of their season due to a COVID outbreak so the rust should be off. Let’s take a deeper dive into Buffalo and New Jersey to decide where we should be placing our wagers. PUBLISHED BEFORE FIRST GAME
Passing the Puck WellThe Buffalo Sabres have been shaky in the early stages of this season and one of the bright spots is the play of center Jack Eichel, who has been playing extremely well to begin the season. The team is missing center Zemgus Girgensons but it is a longer-term injury so the lines will get some chemistry along the way while he recovers. The second-overall pick from 2015 leads the team in points and is tied for seventh in the NHL in power play assists with 13 points (two goals, 11 assists) this season and has recorded a point in his last two games played. In the last game against the New Jersey Devils, he finished with an assist on a single shot on goal in 15:56 on the ice. Eichel has shown the ability to be one of the best players and needs to be more a scoring factor to complement their defense. The Devils are one of the best teams on the defensive sides of the ice so it will be an interesting matchup.
Linus Ullmark and Carter Hutton have split time in the net this season for the Sabres and have been playing well as a goalie unit. Ullmark is 4-3-2 this season with a 2.61 goals against per game and a 90.909% save rate. In his last game against the New Jersey Devils, he allowed two goals on 27 shots. On the season, he allowed 24 goals on 264 shots. Buffalo, as a team, has allowed 43 goals this season, which is 10th in the league. They need to be better at killing power plays as they have allowed seven power play goals on 31 power plays opportunities (77.42 kill percentage). New Jersey is one of the lesser teams at scoring and these teams played against each other so much that Ullmark and co. have seen almost everything the Devils can throw at them.
Step Up and Be HughesThe New Jersey Devils have been good in the early stages of this season and one of the reasons is the play of center Jack Hughes, who has been playing extremely well to begin the season. The Devils only have Nikita Gusev listed on the injury report as of this writing so it will be one of the healthiest they have been as a roster.. He leads the team in points and assists with 11 points (four goals, seven assists) this season and has been adding a point to his stats in the last three games.. In the last game against the Washington Capitals, he finished with a goal on three shot attempts in 19:37 on the ice. Hughes has shown the ability to be a leading player and needs to be more a scoring factor to complement their defense. Buffalo is a solid defense so it will be interesting to see how Hughes can attack it.
Mackenzie Blackwood has spent the majority of time in the net this season for the Devils and have been playing above-average as a goalie unit. Blackwood was forced out due to COVID protocol but has played in the last three games and has a 2-1 record in that span. Blackwood is 4-1-1 this season with a 2.12 goals against per game and a 93.81% save rate, which is fourth in the NHL. In his last game against these Buffalo Sabres, he allowed three goals on 29 shots. On the season, he allowed 13 goals on 210 shots. New Jersey, as a team, has allowed 37 goals this season, which is seventh in the league. They need to be better at killing power plays as they have allowed 17 power play goals in just 42 opportunities (59.52 kill percentage). Buffalo shoots the puck well so it’ll be interesting to see how this game unfolds.
- New Jersey: 2-5 in their last 7 home games
- New Jersey: 1-5 in their last 6 games playing on 1 days rest
- Buffalo: 8-3 in their their last 11 in the fourth game of a 4-in-6 situation