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Game Preview #81: New Jersey Devils vs. Buffalo Sabres

The last home game of the regular season is here, against the somehow-not-yet-eliminated Buffalo Sabres.

New Jersey Devils v Buffalo Sabres Photo by Joe Hrycych/NHLI via Getty Images

The Last Devils Game

The last Devils game was 2-1 loss to the record-setting Boston Bruins. The Devils didn’t look completely out of their league against the 63-win team, but they were still outplayed for the entire game. I recapped it here

The Last Sabres Game

The last Sabres game was last night against the New York Rangers. Facing elimination if they lost, the Sabres outshot their opponent 39 to 28 and got it to overtime tied 2-2 to get a point. They won in the shootout, getting a very important 2 points for them. Peterka scored the first goal of the game and Mittelstadt tied the game in the 3rd. Devon Levi made 26/28 saves in regulation and overtime, and went 4/5 in the shootout.

The Last Devils-Sabres Game

The last game between the Devils and Sabres was March 24. The Sabres won 5-4. Hughes scored 2 goals in the 3rd to bring the Devils within 1, but they couldn’t tie the game after falling behind 5-2. The Sabres will concede a lot of goals, but they can also score a lot. The Devils need to keep the Sabres offense in check tonight if they want the 2 points.

How Are the Sabres Doing?

The Sabres are still hanging on to their playoff hopes with their victory and the Islanders and Panthers losing. They have 3 games remaining. If they win all 3, they’ll have 93 points. The Panthers currently lead the wild card with 92 points but only 1 game remaining.

The Sabres are 5th in the league in goals for and 8th in power play %. Their defense, however, is not their strong suit. They are 24th in goals for and 28th in penalty kill %. Their goaltending has been pretty mediocre, but Devon Levi has stepped in and won 4 of his 5 starts since his NHL debut on March 31. He and Craig Anderson are the top 2 Sabres goalies in save % this year. Anderson has an upper-body injury and may play in one of the final 2 games for Ottawa. Luukkonen has been the starter for most of the season and was last night’s backup, so he might get the nod, so the goaltending is still up in the air.

Their top scorers this season are Tage Thompson with 46 goals and 93 points in 75 games, Jeff Skinner with 75 in 75, Alex Tuch with 74 in 70, Dahlin with 72 in 74, and Cozens with 67 in 77. All the forwards listed have at least 30 goals.

This Sabres team needs to win, so expect them to play hard for all 60. The Devils have some offensive firepower as well, but they have the ability to play a defensive game that Buffalo doesn’t. If I were the Devils, I would force the Sabres to play a slow, defensive game and get them out of their comfort zone.

Does This Game Mean Anything for NJ?

Yes, it does. With the Hurricanes losing to the Senators in regulation and NYR picking up a point against Buffalo last night, the top 3 of Carolina-NJ-NYR can still go in any order. The Devils can clinch 1st round home-ice advantage with a point, and if the Devils get more points than the Canes today, they’ll jump into 1st place in the Metro with just 1 game remaining for both teams.

Your Thoughts

What do you think about tonight’s matchup? Would you rather face the Rangers or the WC1? Leave your thoughts in the comments below, and thank you for reading.