Devils v Sabres: The Battle For A Winning Record
The Buffalo Sabres at 3-3-2 have not yet gone above .500 for the season. The Devils have had a winning record at points during this young season but currently sit at 3-3-1.
New Jersey is 1 point behind the Sabres in the standings with a game in hand. A victory today would put the Devils into a 4th place divisional tie with the Pittsburgh Penguins, slotting them into a potential playoff position if the season ended after the contest.
Much like the Devils, Buffalo has been running hot and cold so far this season. Sabres captain and perennial all-star Jack Eichel has 9 points in 8 games but only 2 of those points are goals, 1 of which came on the power play.
The wealth of Sabres' scoring is spread up and down the line-up with 7 players having either 2 or 3 goals and 8 players with 3 or more points. In contrast, the Devils have only 4 players with 3 or more points. Second year Devils' phenom Jack Hughes leads his team with 7 points (3/4) in as many games.
Linus Ullmark has been solid in his 5 starts in goal for Buffalo with a .915 save percentage and 2.51 goals against. On the New Jersey end of the ice, MacKenzie Blackwood has been sensational in 3 starts with a .948 save percentage and a 1.90 goals against.
Each side has some familiarity with the other that goes beyond just games played against. Devils coach
Lindy Ruff's first NHL coaching job was in Buffalo with whom he took to the Stanley Cup finals losing to Dallas in the infamous Skate In The Crease game in 1999. Ruff would stay with the Sabres until 2013 which marked the beginning of a revolving door of coaches for the Sabres.
While playing for the Devils, current Buffalo Sabres player Taylor Hall earned top honors by winning the NHL's Hart Memorial trophy awarded to the league's most valuable player. That was just three season's ago. Hall started the season playing on Buffalo's top scoring line beside Jack Eichel. As of last game however, Hall skated on a line with Eric Staal, replaced on the top by Victor Oloffson who was a potential candidate for rookie of the year last season until an injury took him out of the running. Hall currently has 7 points (1/6) for the Sabres.
Sam Reinhart, Eichel's long time wing man to the right, is listed as day to day for buffalo opening the door for Tage Thompson to re-enter the lineup in today's match.
MacKenzie Blackwood remains in covid protocol giving way to a Scott Wedgewood start in goal for New Jersey.
The battle for a winning record is two periods in with the score tied at 1-1.