Buffalo Sabres vs. New Jersey Devils 1/31/21 Game Preview

Expected Lines:

Buffalo Sabres
Olofsson – Eichel – Thompson
Hall – Staal – Cozens
Rieder – Eakin – Okposo
Skinner – Sheahan – Lazar

McCabe – Ristolainen
Dahlin – Miller
Jokiharju – Montour

Ullmark

New Jersey Devils
Johnsson – Hughes – Bastian
Bratt – Zacha – Gusev
Kuokkanen – Sharangovich – Palmieri
Wood – McLeod – Merkley

Murray – Subban
Smith – Severson
Kulikov – Tennyson

Wedgewood

News and Notes:

Devils Goaltending

It was announced early Friday morning that Devils G Mackenzie Blackwood was not travelling to Buffalo for New Jersey’s two game set over the weekend versus the Sabres. Veteran backup and ex-Americans G Scott Wedgewood started Saturday, and most likely will get the call again Sunday afternoon.

The Sabres can do themselves a big favour by peppering Wedgewood with pucks as much as they can, as he seems to be struggling early on this season (1-3-1, 2.80 GAA, .901 SV).

Buffalo’s Penalty Killing

The Sabres don’t necessarily boast a top penalty killing unit so far this season, as they currently sit 12th in the NHL at an 80% effectiveness rate. However, they have played at a much higher level the past three games, allowing only one goal. Buffalo was challenged early on in the game with a full 2 minute 5-on-3 and did an excellent job killing it off, as mentioned below:

Buffalo has been taking more penalties over that same three game stretch, so it’s quite impressive to see them being able to kill them off so effectively. Hopefully the Sabres can find the cure for their increase in penalties as of late.

Consistent Gameplay

Buffalo has been noticeably rough in terms of total gameplay as of late. They’re struggling to make the plays that seemed so simple early on in the season, and they are making their zone entries/exits more difficult on themselves by not being able to execute accurate passes.

In both games versus the Rangers and Saturday’s contest with the Devils, the Sabres struggled to make the simple plays at times. Such play is not consistent with the team that opened the season almost three weeks ago.

It may just be a rough spell, but the upside is Buffalo has found a way to win 2 out of those 3 games. If anything, it’s helping teach the younger players how to battle adversity and fight their way through difficult patches of the season, which Buffalo is hopeful will pay off come playoff time.

Sam Reinhart

Buffalo forward Sam Reinhart missed Saturday’s game versus the Devils with an upper body injury. It was Reinhart’s first game missed for any reason since the 2016/17 season. His presence was certainly missed on the ice, as Tage Thompson filled in on the top line for most of the game.

Unfortunately, Reinhart will miss today’s game versus New Jersey, his second missed game in a row. He’s still lingering from that upper body injury suffered in Thursday’s game versus the New York Rangers.

Prediction:

Buffalo has seen four out of their last five games go beyond regulation time, having won two out of the four. They haven’t made things easy on themselves, but if there’s any time to start a streak of regulation wins, it’s now.

Look for the Sabres to come out of the gate much like they did Saturday afternoon, with a lot of pace and an aggressive forecheck. With any luck, it will result in an early tally or two.

TCB says: Buffalo continues their aforementioned play and scores early and often, winning this one handily, 6-1.

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