After Jaromir Jagr’s historic effort helped them emerge from their offensive slump, the New Jersey Devils should have an opportunity to keep it going against the defensively challenged Buffalo Sabres.
Jagr and the Devils will try to win consecutive games for the first time in nearly two months Tuesday night against a visiting Buffalo team that is hoping to avoid its ninth loss in 10 games.
Already one of the league’s lowest-scoring clubs, New Jersey (14-20-7) came into Saturday’s game against Philadelphia averaging 1.5 goals over a 3-8-3 stretch since last scoring more than three in a 5-3 victory at Toronto on Dec. 4.
The 42-year-old Jagr got three by himself against the Flyers, passing Gordie Howe to become the oldest NHL player to record a hat trick in a 5-2 home win.
"It’s not easy to score in this league anymore," said Jagr, now three goals shy of Phil Esposito (717) for fifth all-time. "With the videos, the preparation, the systems they play, plus the goaltenders are so good."
The line of Jagr, Adam Henrique and Scott Gomez combined for four goals and eight points Saturday as the Devils ended a two-game losing streak with their third win in their last 11 home games.
Jagr, who had one goal over his previous 12 games, hasn’t produced a point in his last five meetings with Buffalo dating to his time with Philadelphia. Even if the right wing doesn’t provide another outburst, the Devils should have plenty of scoring opportunities against the Atlantic Division-worst Sabres (14-23-3).
Buffalo allows an NHL-high 3.38 goals per game and has given up an average of 4.56 while going 1-7-1 in its last nine. The club hopes to avoid a season high-tying fifth straight loss after Saturday’s 6-1 road defeat to the New York Rangers.
The Sabres have killed three of their last eight penalties, and three of New York’s four first-period goals came on the power play. Buffalo also has given up at least one first-period score in each of its last eight games.
"It’s tough to give up four goals so quick," goaltender Michal Neuvirth said after he was pulled in favor of Jhonas Enroth. "I have to look at the tape and figure out how to play better."
Enroth, however, will be back in net after going 1-3-1 with a 3.79 goals-against average over his last six games. He stopped 23 of 24 shots in a 1-0 overtime road loss Nov. 30, 2013, in his only start against New Jersey last season.
Defenseman Tyler Myers may be able to help in his return after missing the past six games with a lower-body injury.
The Devils have gone 2 for 22 on the power play over their last seven games, but they scored three times in the first period Saturday after going scoreless in the opening 20 minutes of their previous four games.
Buffalo’s Zemgus Girgensons has a team-high 11 goals, but is scoreless in his last three games. The leading vote-getter for the NHL All-Star game did not have a point against the Devils in 2013-14.
The Sabres, who took two of three in last season’s series, have totaled four goals while getting outshot 132-87 during their skid.
Cory Schneider looks to keep the Buffalo attack quiet after he finished with 18 saves in Saturday’s win. He owns a 2.10 GAA in 15 home starts and is 1-2-1 with a 1.24 mark in his last four against the Sabres.