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Game 29: Devils at Buffalo

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The sad thing about writing these mid-week back-to-back game threads is that the second game kind of suffers, as I'm not able to update during the day. Moreover, the emotions and raw feelings after the first game still linger - be they correct or not. Regardless, it is what it is.

So the Devils just lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the shootout, primarily due to a slick spin-o-rama by Jason Blake and securingly due to a Brian Rolston slapshot that didn't fool Vesa Toskala. The game itself was a defensive one, with both team's defensemen choosing not to pinch in all that much and throwing themselves into passing and shooting lanes like they owned their own zone. Which, well, they did. Johnny Oduya led the Devils in blocked shots with 6 out of the team's 18. Jeff Finger led the Leafs with 8 blocked shots out of the team's 21. It was a game of battles and loose pucks and both teams got one great bounce that earned them a goal: Nik Antropov cleaning up a rebound, a puck deflecting multiple times before hitting Zach Parise's visor and in on the power play. Both teams got one great chance that they buried: Jason Williams on a rocket of a shot above the slot, Mike Rupp returning a Jeff Finger giveaway into a gaping wide open net.

But alas, the struggle for the Devils' offense was to generate more shots and more scoring chances. The Leafs held the Devils down well for most of the second and did well enough in the third (only 4 shots against), save for Travis Zajac having an empty net denied by a Leaf (Grabovski, I think). In overtime, the Devils had a couple more, but it was too little too late. But both teams had a lot of opportunities denied by a stick, a leg, a skate or a fluke. And a point for the Devils is warranted all things considered (offenses couldn't get going, on the road, etc.); though Sutter certainly isn't happy about it according to Chere. And he shouldn't be. This is the second game in a row where the Devils' offense didn't look strong after they carried the team to Victoryville (made of gold and cake) against the Rangers. And now they face the first team from those two games today: the Buffalo Sabres.

The Sabres are rested and should be more than ready to take on the same team they looked good against on Saturday. They haven't played since and they really shouldn't have to do too much more scouting. D.O. at Die by the Blade does offer an area of weakness for the Sabres: they aren't scoring much on even strength. This tells me that the Devils need to stay out of the box, keep Vanek's unit in check, and attack with force in 5-on-5 situations if they want to have a good chance of winning this one. It'll force the Sabres to do what they haven't had much success doing all season according to D.O. - get the job done on even strength and from the other forward who have not been putting up the goals like they did last season.

In any case, check out Die by the Blade for a Sabres-perspective. But by all means, leave a comment here about the game. Maybe you know whether or not Scott Clemmensen will get a second straight game or that Kevin Weekes gets a third crack at the Sabres. Maybe Gulitti or Chere will note a change in the lineup or in strategy. Feel free to leave that all here. Just keep it clean and keep it Jersey.