Newark - January 6, 2015 -
Who: New Jersey Devils
Where: Prudential Center, Newark, NJ
Know thine enemy: Things are starting to get a bit dicey in Jersey these days. The Devils are struggling, barely scoring at a higher clip than the Sabres right now (2.15 goals per game) and sitting ahead of only Carolina in the Metropolitan Division.
Despite the offensive woes, they had a nice outburst in a 5-2 win against the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday. They got a hat trick from the ageless Jaromir Jagr and eight points total from their top line of Jagr, Scott Gomez and Adam Henrique. Beyond Jagr (25 points) and Henrique (23), there really isn’t much offense to be had. Mike Cammalleri and his team-leading 12 goals are helping bring some balance to the second line, but steady veteran Patrik Elias is struggling (14 points) and Michael Ryder is rumored to be on the block.
On the back end, things are up and down and that brings us to goaltender Cory Schneider. Since taking over as the unquestioned starter, Schneider has been consistently inconsistent. He’s 13-18-4 with a 2.45 goals against average and .917 save percentage; not exactly the performance the Devils thought they were going to get when they traded a first-round pick to get him.
About the Sabres: After winning 10 of 13, the Sabres have cratered once again. They’ve lost eight of nine and are just four points ahead of Edmonton for the bottom spot in the league.
In a bit of good news, defenseman Tyler Myers will return to the lineup tonight after missing the last nine games with a lower-body injury. His numbers don’t jump out at you, but he does average over 25 minutes per night and his play in the defensive zone is markedly better. It’s also little surprise that the penalty kill, which he played a big part of, totally collapsed in his absence. The Sabres have leaned heavily on him so far and will likely do so again in his return.
Offensively, about the only good news of late is that Zemgus Girgensons is officially an All-Star. Other than that, it’s grim. Since their last win, a 4-3 shootout victory over the Islanders back on December 27th, the Sabres have managed just four goals in their last four games. I talked earlier in the year about how opportunistic the forwards were given the few chances they were actually generating. This is what happens when those forwards stop being opportunistic and pucks stop going in.
The part where I predict things: After a brief surge between November and December, the Sabres are showing their true colors once again. The offense has disappeared off the face of the Earth, the goaltending has been average at best and the injuries are already starting to take their toll given the lack of talent the team already possessed.
The Devils are struggling, with turmoil in their front office and on their bench, but they still have more talent than the Sabrs. If they play a halfway decent game, they should win this one in a walk.
Score: 3-2 Devils
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