While the New Jersey Devils search for ways to end their recent
struggles, the Buffalo Sabres hope they’re in the midst of finally
turning their dismal season around.
The visiting Devils look to avoid a fourth straight defeat and
keep the Sabres, who will be without leading scorer Thomas Vanek,
from a season-high third consecutive victory Saturday.
New Jersey (10-6-4) averaged 2.9 goals during its 9-2-3 start,
but has totaled nine while going 1-4-1 since. The Devils, who
allowed a goal 8 seconds into Thursday’s 3-1 loss at Winnipeg, have
been held to one goal four times in their last six games while
going 2 for 22 on the power play.
“It’s frustrating,” said forward David Clarkson, who has a
team-leading 10 goals but none in the last six contests. “We’ve got
to find a way to get out of this and start playing in the other
team’s zone a little more.”
It has not helped that the Devils have allowed opponents to go 8
of 20 on the power play during the rough stretch.
New Jersey’s three-game slide in regulation has coincided with
future Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur’s absence due to a sore back.
Brodeur, who had a 1.84 goals-against average in a 5-1-1 stretch
before the injury, isn’t eligible to come off injured reserve until
Johan Hedberg, expected to make his fourth consecutive start,
has a 4.06 GAA while losing four straight outings. He’s allowed
eight goals while dropping his last two starts against the Sabres,
but has not faced them since November 2010.
After playing their last four against Washington and Winnipeg,
the Devils may be excited to face a different opponent while trying
to avoid their second four-game skid of the season. New Jersey went
3-0-1 against the Sabres in 2011-12, scoring nine times to win its
two trips to Buffalo.
The Sabres (8-12-1) have won two in a row behind six goals after
totaling one while losing their first two games under interim coach
Ron Rolston. Nathan Gerbe scored his first two goals of the season
and Ryan Miller made 40 saves in Buffalo’s 4-3 shootout win at
Florida on Thursday.
“We’ll take it. It’s a step in the direction we need to keep
going in,” said Rolston, who was coaching Buffalo’s AHL affiliate
in Rochester when he was tabbed to replace the fired Lindy Ruff
“We still have a big ceiling in terms of room for improvement
for our team. Our mindset has to be to get back and be better again
Buffalo, however, will be without Vanek because of a nagging
upper body injury. Rolston described the injury as short-term and
hopes Vanek, who ranks third in the NHL with 27 points (12 goals
and 15 assists), will return for Sunday’s game at the New York
The Sabres went 0 for 13 on the power play in the previous four
games but converted their only chance Thursday. Buffalo also has
killed 9 of 10 penalties in its last two contests after its
previous five opponents went 5 for 16 with the man advantage.
“Ron has made some adjustments, made some changes,” forward
Jason Pominville told the NHL’s official website. “He said from the
get-go it might take some time, but we’re slowly starting to get
The Sabres are looking to get Rolston his first victory at home,
where they’ll try to avoid their first four-game skid since Feb.