The Sabres have returned to Buffalo with renewed vigor following their comeback victory Monday night in Montreal.
The days beforehand featured the Sabres being ridiculed by fans and media alike for failing to defend goaltender Ryan Miller after he was steamrolled by Boston Bruins’ forward Milan Lucic in the Saturday night meeting between the two division rivals.
On Monday, the NHL made the decision not to enforce any disciplinary measures upon Lucic. A war of words between coach Lindy Ruff and Brendan Shanahan, the senior vice president of player safety and hockey operations, has since ensued, with Ruff harshly criticizing the NHL’s ruling, and Shanahan deeming the outcry as “irresponsible”.
But the Sabres and their fans need to put aside that firestorm for the moment, at least until they meet with the Bruins next Wednesday at home. Tonight, Buffalo returns to action inside of First Niagara Center to take on the New Jersey Devils for the first time this season.
Last year the Devils took the first meeting in a 1-0 shutout in Buffalo, while the Sabres won the next three contests. One of those was a shootout victory for Sabres goaltender Jhonas Enroth, who then recorded only his second NHL win. Some fans may remember that shootout for when offensive star Ilya Kovalchuk lost control of the puck on his attempt and did not even take a shot.
While Buffalo comes to the ice on a high note, the Devils roll into Western New York following a tough 4-3 loss to the Boston Bruins on Tuesday evening.
The Sabres will face a stiff challenge in New Jersey’s penalty kill, which ranks 2nd in the entire NHL. The Devils have only given up four power play goals in 16 games played this season.
That dominance has not quite translated to their offense. The Devils average just over two goals a game, putting them 17th in the league. Their power play is dead last in the NHL, accounting for a measly six goals on 55 opportunities.
It does not help New Jersey any that their power play will meet with Buffalo’s third-ranked penalty kill, which sits at just over 90%. The Devils will also need to score goals without the talent of Kovalchuk, who will miss his fourth straight contest due to a lower body injury.
Jhonas Enroth is likely to start in net for the Sabres tonight, while the Devils have a choice on their hands for their starting goaltender.
Martin Brodeur returned to action last Wednesday after missing almost three weeks with a shoulder injury, but continues to have inconsistent results, going 2-3-0 in his starts this season. Backup Johan Hedberg (6-3-1) has fared much better, and has a history of success against Buffalo, but after giving up four goals just last night you have to wonder how confident New Jersey’s coaching staff will be to throw him out there so soon.
Tonight’s game will begin at 7:30 PM, and will be televised nationally on Versus. Fans can also listen in through WGR 550.