The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils at the Buffalo Sabres.
The Time: 7:00 PM
The Broadcast: TV - MSGSN
Tatar’s Maintenance Day; Wood Back
Tomas Tatar, according to Amanda Stein, missed practice yesterday due to a maintenance day. With him missing a full practice, Nolan Foote moved up to the third line while Miles Wood rejoined practice on the fourth line. Bastian and Lazar were still out of the line rushes due to their injuries, though Brendan Smith returned to practice as the seventh defenseman. You can see the lines below.
With no Tomas Tatar, Nolan Foote moves up to his spot with Palat and Boqvist while Miles Wood joins McLeod and Sharangovich.#NJDevils pic.twitter.com/koXFQ8eqyg— Amanda Stein (@amandacstein) March 23, 2023
Blackwood is Returning
As you can see in the lines above, Mackenzie Blackwood returned to practice as a third goalie. Although he is skating, Lindy Ruff indicated that he is not ready to return to game action. However, Ruff did say that he plans on getting Blackwood some games before the season ends. What does that mean for Akira Schmid? I do not think, at this point, that Schmid will be sent to Utica. With the playoffs looming and Schmid getting about even time with Vitek Vanecek, I think it would be difficult for Fitzgerald and Ruff to argue that Blackwood should seamlessly return into his old position.
With Curtis Lazar appearing to be missing significant time for the rest of this regular season and perhaps beyond, it should not be a problem to carry three goaltenders for the time being. I am unaware of whether Bastian will be getting back to playing in regular season games, as well — so I think it’s entirely possible that the coaches and front office will be able to skate by with those players on injured reserve until the playoffs, when roster rules are relaxed and the team only needs to worry about the dressed players.
At this point, the Buffalo Sabres would have to win out to have a chance of making the playoffs. At 33-31-6, they have simply left too many points on the board with their bad goaltending by not pushing more games to overtime (and not winning more). Craig Anderson seems to have lost his magic, as he’s only played four games in March to the tune of a 1-3-0 record and .841 save percentage. Still, nearing 42 years of age, it’s remarkable that Anderson has had a decent season for Buffalo as their best goaltender in terms of quality of play.
The resurgence of Jeff Skinner and the rise of Tage Thompson, Rasmus Dahlin, Dylan Cozens, and Alex Tuch to new heights should give Buffalo fans a lot of hopes for next year. Perhaps a goaltender like Mackenzie Blackwood might be a guy they should take a chance on — as Buffalo currently has the fifth best offense in the league by way of goals scored. It should be a fun, high-flying game tonight.
Clinching, and Your Thoughts
Of course, the Devils should be able to clinch tonight. I hope to see a massive virtual celebration of Devils fans online, and it would be nice to hear some “Let’s go Devils” chants on television if enough fans get up to Buffalo.
What are your thoughts on tonight’s game? Are you excited? Who are you looking forward to seeing tonight? If we clinch, who will score the game-winning goal? Leave your thoughts in the comments below, and thanks for reading.