While the Buffalo Sabres keep finding ways to earn points, the New Jersey Devils have to return to their early success.
The Sabres will try to extend their point streak to six games on Sunday while handing the visiting Devils a fourth consecutive defeat.
Buffalo went 1-3-0 in its first four games on this abbreviated season but is 3-0-2 since. After falling 3-2 to the New York Rangers in overtime on Thursday, the Sabres rebounded with a 4-3 shootout win over New Jersey on Saturday.
“There is a trust the process here, which is going through the group,” coach Ralph Krueger told the Sabres’ official website. “We feel very comfortable with where we are right now. The bumps and bruises are always tests of your mettle, and your character and the reactions,” he said.
Victor Olofsson scored his fourth goal of the season to extend his point streak to five games Saturday. He has four goals and five points in three career contests against the Devils.
Ex-Devil Taylor Hall recorded two assists on Saturday in his first game against his former team since New Jersey traded him to Arizona in December 2019. Hall has three assists in two games after going four straight without a point.
Buffalo’s Linus Ullmark stopped 31 shots while making his fifth consecutive start on Saturday. He has a .916 save percentage in those five games, but it’s uncertain if he gets the call in this contest. Carter Hutton (1-2-0, 2.65 GAA) returned to the club after he was injured during a collision at Philadelphia in his most recent action on Jan. 19.
New Jersey earned five points from its first three games and was 3-1-1 after five. However, it’s allowed 11 non-shootout goals during the current 0-2-1 rut that has followed. It also hasn’t helped that the Devils are 1-for-10 on the power play in the last three. That one goal came over five chances — including a 5-on-3 — Saturday.
“The common theme is that we’ve missed too many of these good opportunities,” Devils coach Lindy Ruff said of his young team, which has totaled four goals on 68 shots in the last two games.
“We’re just going to continue to work at it. … It’s training under fire.”
Despite Saturday’s result, New Jersey rookie defenseman Ty Smith continued his strong start with a second goal of the season Saturday. He has recorded seven points through the first eight games of his career.
Teammate Kyle Palmieri, who has scored at least 24 goals in each of the last five seasons, remains without a goal in 2020-21. It’s the longest opening stretch his gone without a goal in his 11-year career.
With Mackenzie Blackwood still in COVID-19 protocol, it’s possible the Devils’ Scott Wedgewood (1-3-1, 2.80 GAA) makes his sixth straight start after he made 28 saves on Saturday. Eric Comrie, who last saw NHL in December 2019 with Detroit, is the only other goalie on New Jersey’s active roster.
New Jersey is likely to be without forward Travis Zajac for a second straight contest after being put in COVID-19 protocol on Friday. Zajac has two goals on the season.
Meanwhile for Buffalo, Sam Reinhart did not play Saturday and is day-to-day with an upper-body injury. He has three goals and three assists in 2020-21.
–Field Level Media