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Game Preview #12: New Jersey Devils vs the Buffalo Sabres

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Mackenzie Blackwood will try to tie a franchise record for point-streak to start the season as the Devils look for another win against the Buffalo Sabres.

NHL: New Jersey Devils at Boston Bruins Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (6-3-2) against the Buffalo Sabres (4-7-2).

The Time: 12:30 PM

The Broadcast: MSG+

The Opposition’s SBN Blog: Die By the Blade

The Lineups:

One day, I’m going to predict the lines, and they’ll actually be right.

Today, most likely, is not that day.

The Good Guys:

Johnsson - Hughes - Bratt
Kuokkanen - Zacha - Merkley
Sharangovitch - Maltsev/Zajac* - Palmieri
Wood - McLeod - Bastian

Murray - Subban
Smith - Severson
Kulikov - Vatanen

Blackwood

*Zajac’s return to the lineup was a possibility according to Lindy Ruff at yesterday’s practice, so we’ll see if he slots in here or if his return will come with another shuffle. Maltsev has been excellent so he may stay in the lineup somewhere else. Nico Hischier is, of course, still on covid protocol. Ryan Murray is expected to play tonight so Butcher will come out.

The Bad Guys

Buffalo’s last game against Washington was not pretty. The Sabres have dropped four in a row now in a severe offensive slump. Typically their powerplay is their best chance for scoring, and it did produce their only goal — not good for the Devils and our anemic penalty kill— but it also saw a 2-0 shorthanded rush by the Capitals that resulted in a goal. Linus Ullmark played extremely well and made some highlight-reel saves, but that hasn’t been enough to save the Sabres many games so far this season.

The Sabres got a little more than they were asking for the last time we played them— we dealt them a 5-3 loss, and 10 cases of covid including Taylor Hall, head coach Ralph Krueger, and top defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, who recently shared a sobering reminder of the risk players face as he described the severity of his symptoms to a Finnish newspaper (covered by Die By the Blade here). Ristolainen will likely not be ready to return to the lineup for some time. Casey Middlestadt, the last Sabre to be removed from covid protocol, is not quite ready to return yet either— Krueger said the returns to the lineup would be staggered, and it appears the other missing player in Dylan Cozens will be the one to make his return today, based on these lineups from their practice yesterday morning:

Olofsson - Eichel - Reinhart
Hall - Staal - Cozens
Reider - Eakin - Okposo
Skinner - Lazar - Sheahan

Dahlin - Miller
Montour - Jokiharju
McCabe - Borgen

Ullmark/Hutton

Here’s hoping for a much less eventful matchup this time around.

Your Thoughts

Who do you think will open the scoring for New Jersey today? How many saves will Mackenzie Blackwood make? Do you think Zajac will be in the lineup? Leave your predictions in the comments, and thanks for reading!