In search of depth at forward, the New Jersey Devils invited Lee Stempniak to training camp. Not only did he make the team, but he’s a major reason why it’s won three games in a row.
Stempniak looks to continue his impressive scoring surge Saturday night when the Devils try to match their longest winning streak from last season against the Buffalo Sabres.
Stempniak was on four teams over the past two seasons, scoring 15 goals with 13 assists in 71 games with the New York Rangers and Winnipeg in 2014-15. He entered free agency over the summer and didn’t land a tangible offer until the Devils (3-3-1) offered him a tryout in camp.
The right wing did enough to earn a one-year deal, and he’s certainly justified that investment so far. Stempniak is tied with Adam Henrique for second on the team with six points, two behind Mike Cammalleri.
Stempniak scored in overtime of Sunday’s 2-1 win over the Rangers before assisting on Adam Larsson’s OT tally in a 3-2 victory over Arizona two days later.
He had two points Thursday, scoring with 32 seconds left in regulation before netting the decisive shootout attempt in a 5-4 win over Ottawa.
"We’re a team that’s got to fight for every inch and there’s not very high expectations for us, but in the room we believe we’re capable of a lot more than what people expect from us," Stempniak said. "I think that our mentality is just to go out and play until the final buzzer and that came through."
Stempniak has a chance at his first four-game point streak since he was with Calgary from Jan. 24-Feb. 1, 2014. However, he’s been held off the score sheet over his last five meetings with Buffalo.
The Devils had four straight wins from Feb. 17-23, a streak that started with a 2-1 shootout win over the Sabres (2-5-0). They won all three matchups last season, holding them to one goal in each.
Cory Schneider was in net for two of those meetings, stopping 44 of 46 shots. He’s 3-2-2 with a 1.53 goals-against average in seven career matchups.
He’s expected to get the nod Saturday, having compiled a 2.24 GAA while starting each game of the current winning streak.
The Sabres are looking to bounce back from their worst performance of the season, giving up five unanswered goals to fall 7-2 to unbeaten Montreal on Friday.
"You’re playing a team that hasn’t lost a game all year," defenseman Josh Gorges said. "You’ve got to play the right way the whole way through and too many times, collectively as a group, we just made mistakes."
Matt Moulson and Ryan O’Reilly had a goal each against the Canadiens, giving them a team-leading four points apiece. Moulson has a goal in each of the last two homer matchups with New Jersey.
No. 2 overall pick Jack Eichel has a minus-5 rating and no points in his last four games after scoring two goals in his first three NHL contests.
It’s unclear if Buffalo will start Chad Johnson in net on back-to-back nights after he surrendered a career high in goals while making 19 saves Friday. He’s split two meetings with New Jersey, giving up five goals on 55 shots.
Johnson has been relied upon heavily due to an ankle injury to Robin Lehner, who is out at least six weeks.
Linus Ullmark, who was called up from AHL Rochester to backup Johnson on Friday, could be in line for his NHL debut. A sixth-round pick in 2012, the 22-year-old Ullmark went 1-2-0 with a 2.72 GAA in three games with the Americans.