The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (0-2-1) face off against the Buffalo Sabres (1-2-0) in Buffalo. This is the first meeting between the two teams this season.
The Last Sabres Game: The Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Sabres, 4-3, on Monday in Buffalo. The Sabres jumped out to an early lead, with Drew Stafford scoring 14 seconds into the game to put Buffalo ahead, 1-0. Derek Roy extended the lead to 2-0 at 2:43 of the first with his second goal of the season. Buffalo couldn't hold the lead, as the Blackhawks scored four goals over the three periods to take a 4-2 lead. Tim Connolly's even-strength goal at 5:24 of the final period brought the Sabres to within a goal, but Buffalo couldn't complete the comeback. The game also featured this hit on Jason Pominville, which concussed him and earned Niklas Hjalmarsson a two game suspension.
The Last Devils Game: The Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Devils, 3-1, Monday afternoon at The Rock. It was the return of former Devil Paul Martin, who was booed every time he touched the puck. Alex Goligoski opened the scoring, giving the Penguins a 1-0 lead with 1:04 left in the first period. Mark Letetsu extended the lead to 2-0 with a powerplay goal at 2:32 of the second period. Patrik Elias tallied the Devils' first goal, pulling the Devils to within one at 8:26 of the third period. But Brent Johnson held steady, making 13 saves in the final frame. To make matters worse, Martin iced the victory with an empty net goal at 19:46 of the period.
The Last Devils - Sabres Game: The Devils won the final game of the season against the Sabres to earn a split of the season series. After a scoreless first period, Thomas Vanek and Travis Zajac scored second period goals to tie the game at one. In the third period, after Buffalo pulled goalie Patrick Lalime, Devils’ captain Jamie Langenbrunner fired home an empty-net, powerplay goal to give the Devils the win. That victory clinched the number two seed in the Eastern Conference for the Devils last season. For a full historical recap of the matchup between these two teams, click here.
Welcome Back! Both Henrik Tallinder and Adam Mair return back to Buffalo for tonight's game. Mair played seven seasons for the Sabres before joining the Devils on a tryout contract. Tallinder, a second-round draft choice of the Sabres in 1997, played nine seasons before signing with the Devils.
Tallinder said the Sabres offered him a contract, but didn't pursue him once he became a free agent. But he feels no ill will toward the organization, and doesn't know what to anticipate tonight.
"They might (boo) sometimes," he said. "I have no idea what they’re going to do. They might cheer. No, they won’t. What ever happens, happens."
Tonight's Matchup: The objective is clear - win a game. It's not time to hit the panic button yet, but the Devils need to come out aggressive and make things happen tonight. Once again, the team will be shorthanded, only dressing 16 skaters for tonight's game. But those are extenuating circumstances beyond the player's control. They need to put the past three games out of their minds and focus in on beating one of the best goalies in the game.
The Devils did some good things in Monday's loss. Even though they allowed 30 shots, the team played better defense. It looked like some of the pairings were building chemistry, and the team seemed more responsible in their own end. They were also victims on some bad penalty calls, but did a great job on the kill. If not for an unfortunate bounce, the Devils wouldn't have allowed Letetsu's powerplay goal.
I'm looking for whether or not the team can give a complete, 60 minute effort tonight. They haven't done that yet, and it's an issue that plagued the team last season. They weren't showing effort during the morning skate, where coach John MacLean stopped practice to rip into the team for being listless and sloppy during drills. If that's an indication of things to come, then tonight may be a long night.
Game time is 7 p.m., and you can catch all the action on MSG Plus. Join us here on Running With The Devils for a live game blog, beginning at 6:45 p.m.
Here are the expected lines, based off of this morning's skate:
Zach Parise - Travis Zajac - Ilya Kovalchuk
Patrik Elias - Jason Arnott - Jamie Langenbrunner
Dainius Zubrus - Adam Mair - David Clarkson
Henrik Tallinder - Andy Greene
Colin White - Matt Taormina
Alexander Urbom - Mark Fraser