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Game 27: Devils vs. Sabres

The New Jersey Devils are coming off a big win over Our Hated Rivals, with a thrilling 8-5 score. I went into depth about the game last night with criticism and loads of praise for special teams and an offense that deserved it. Gulitti has some fun stats which will make you at least go "Hey, that's a thing." One thing he left out was Bobby Holik's fun stat line of 1 assist, 10:50 of ice time, 3 shots, and 6 hits.

Anyway, we can't dwell on last night's game as the Devils have one tonight - and it's against the one team who has shut them out so far this season: the Buffalo Sabres. The Sabres also played last night and lost to Toronto 2-1. D.O. at Die by the Blade didn't like the Sabres' performance and who would, losing to the Maple Leafs. From his account, the Sabres forwards had trouble with constant pressure from the Leafs both on the forecheck and the backcheck. If you're thinking what I'm thinking, that's exactly something the Devils should consider trying tonight. When a team has guys like these:

2008 - Thomas Vanek 29 22 5 27 1 22 9 2 4 1 107 20.6

2008 - Derek Roy 29 8 15 23 -1 18 1 0 2 0 79 10.1

2008 - Jason Pominville 29 9 13 22 -1 12 2 1 1 1 82 11.0

Allowing them as little space as possible is probably a good idea. But will the Devils have enough in the proverbial tank to play well against Buffalo as they have been in their last 4 wins?

However, after such a big win, who knows what you'll see from the Devils. Rich Chere and Colin Stephenson of The Star Ledger answer some questions after the Rangers game, as is what the usually do and it is usually worth one's time to read it, and Stephenson makes this important point.

CS: I think it's [the 8-5 win - JF] an important psychological hurdle for the Devils to have cleared. They were certainly well aware they haven't played well against their rivals, and they had certainly heard enough of the Ranger fans chanting, "You can't beat us!'' in their own building. Now, the trick will be to avoid a letdown Saturday night against the Sabres. After an emotionally charged game like Friday's would anyone be surprised by a letdown Saturday?

It's a valid point. A huge win can take a lot out of a team, leaving them mentally, emotionally, and perhaps physically drained. Especially over a rival team where the games are usually very intense. Especially like last night where there were all kinds of hits, scuffles, fights, and a blown lead followed by a massive re-taking of a lead. On the other hand, a huge win over a rival can be enough of a lift to provide the confidence and momentum to continue rolling through oponents. D.O. doesn't figure it'll be easy - it rarely is with a team on a four game winning streak. But if I'm the Sabres, I'd want to try play as high a tempo as possible and hope the Devils will eventually tire out.

Anyway, as it stands, it's not clear who will be starting in net: Chere and Stephenson think it's time for Kevin Weekes to get the start and I agree. Clemmensen was great up until last night, and things got rough for him. A break would do him some good and Weekes is more than capable to provide good service in the net for the Devils. No word from either or Gulitti whether Sutter has made a decision. There's also no word on Travis Zajac's condition. According to Gulitti last night, Zajac said he'd be OK; but it's really a gametime decision as to whether he'll play tonight. We're not going to find out until much later in the afternoon or right before game time, I think.

If Zajac can't go tonight, we could see Brian Rolston play center on the second line - moving David Clarkson back to the third line and Sheldon Brookbank can move from the press box onto a fourth line with Holik and Rupp. I don't think there will be any call ups. According to Chere & Stephenson, Petr Vrana is going through waivers in order to be sent down to Lowell. With the return of the injured players, his spot on the team is gone for the time being. Gulitti just updated that Vrana cleared waivers, so he's still in the organization; but I don't expect him to go through again to be called up right away (or anytime soon, to be honest).

In any case, the Devils have a game tonight and hopefully they will play as well as a juicy steak instead of a sub-standard dollar hot dog (it's Dollar Hot Dog night! My advice: get something else). As always, please comment about the game here before, during, and after; keep it clean, keep it relevant, and keep it Jersey.