The New Jersey Devils and Buffalo Sabres are both assured of
opening a first-round playoff series at home later this week. The
chance to open a potential Eastern Conference semifinals series on
home ice, however, is still up for grabs.
Separated by just one point, the Devils and Sabres meet Sunday
at the Prudential Center with second place in the East on the
Heading into the final game of the regular season, Atlantic
Division champion New Jersey (47-27-7) is in second in the
conference with 101 points, just ahead of Northeast-winning
The Devils can remain in that position by earning at least one
point, but would switch places with the Sabres (45-26-10) with a
regulation loss. The advantage of clinching the second seed means
automatic home-ice advantage in a possible semifinals series.
“It gives you the opportunity, if you pass the first round, to
be home again,” said New Jersey goaltender Martin Brodeur. “It’s
always important to have as many games as possible in your own
building. You play all year to position yourself. It’s available to
us with a win.”
The Devils are 26-10-4 at home this season, while the Sabres are
20-16-4 on the road.
These teams haven’t met since the Sabres’ 2-1 shootout win on
Jan. 27 in Buffalo. The Sabres are 2-1-0 against the Devils this
season, and has outscored New Jersey 10-3 in winning all three
meetings at the Prudential Center since it opened last season.
Brodeur has been started all three games against the Sabres this
season, going 1-1-1 with a 1.62 goals-against average and one
Buffalo’s Ryan Miller has also been between the pipes for all
three meetings, posting a 1.62 GAA. He is 2-0-2 with a 0.72 GAA and
one shutout in his last four games in New Jersey.
Both teams enter this crucial game off impressive showings.
New Jersey defeated the New York Islanders 7-1 on Saturday to
clinch the Atlantic for the second straight season and fourth time
in five years. Patrik Elias scored twice and Travis Zajac matched
his career high with three assists in the Devils’ biggest offensive
output of the season and largest margin of victory.
“It was nice to get a lot of scoring from a lot of different
people,” said Zach Parise, who added his team-leading 38th goal.
“All the lines played well, generating offense. Everyone knows, if
you want to go far in the playoffs, that’s what you need.”
That was more than enough for Brodeur, as he stopped 18 shots to
notch the 601st victory of his career. The future Hall of Famer is
3-1-2 with a 0.98 GAA and two shutouts in six games since March
Buffalo defeated Ottawa 5-2 on Saturday behind a career-best
four goals from Thomas Vanek, who returned after sitting out six
games with a lower body injury.
“It was a good game for us overall and it’s nice for me to be
back and capitalize on my opportunities,” said Vanek, who moved
past two teammates and now leads the team with 27 goals.
Miller turned away 28 shots to win his 41st game, breaking the
franchise record for single-season victories he set in 2006-07.
“That was a good example of the way we can play,” Miller said.
“It was important for us to get this win.”