Struggling Sabres hope to snap road slide
Monday, 01.23.2012 / 9:09 AMSABRES (19-24-5) at DEVILS (26-19-2)
MSG-B, MSG PLUS
Sabres 2-7-1, Devils 5-4-1
This is the third of four meetings between the clubs this season. The Devils have won the previous two meetings, defeating the Sabres 5-3 at First Niagara Center on Nov. 16 and earning a 3-1 triumph at Prudential Center on Dec. 28. In the most recent victory, Petr Sykora
scored twice and Zach Parise
also had a goal.
While the Devils might be doing just enough to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs this spring, odds are they won't last very long based on their record against quality opponents. The Devils are 2-6-1 against the top four teams in the Eastern Conference. They're coming off back-to-back home losses by identical 4-1 scores against the Bruins and Flyers and are 1-2-0 during a current six-game homestand.
Buffalo lost its 12th straight on the road -- and fifth consecutive overall -- when they lost 4-2 to the St. Louis Blues on Saturday. The loss put Buffalo, which is in the midst of a seven-game road swing, in a tie with Carolina for last place in the East with 43 points. The Sabres have been outscored 23-7 during their current five-game losing streak and are 8-15-0 away from First Niagara Center this season.
"It's embarrassing," left wing Thomas Vanek
said. "Since Day 1 when I got here, I always prided myself -- and it's what I learned from the older guys -- to be a good road team, which I thought we've always done a great job at. Right now, it's a mistake and it goes south for us."
New Jersey's penalty-killing unit, which allowed just nine goals in the team's first 35 games of the season, has yielded nine goals in the last 12 contests. In a 4-1 loss to the Flyers on Saturday, the Devils' shorthanded unit allowed two goals on five opportunities. Still, the Devils not only are second in the league with an 89.2 penalty-killing efficiency, but have yielded the third-fewest shots per game average this season.
Forward Alexei Ponikarovsky
scored in his Devils debut Saturday. Ponikarovsky was acquired by the Devils from the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday for minor-league defenseman Joe Sova and a 2012 fourth-round draft pick.
Sabres captain Jason Pominville
has recorded a point in 34 of Buffalo's 48 games this season, only twice having gone two straight games without a point. The Sabres are 11-4-0 when Pominville scores a goal this season. He leads the team in assists (30) and points (47).
The Devils are without forward Travis Zajac
(Achilles tendon) and defenseman Andy Greene
(foot). … Sidelined for the Sabres are injured forwards Paul Gaustad
(upper body), Tyler Ennis
(left ankle) and Colin Stuart
(knee), and defensemen Robyn Regehr
(upper body), Brayden McNabb
(head) and Christian Ehrhoff
Devils defenseman Bryce Salvador
, who is in his 10th NHL season, needs just two points to reach 100 for his career (23 goals, 75 assists). Salvador has played in 657 games.
Devils goalie Martin Brodeur
, who made his fourth straight start against the Flyers on Saturday, gave up three goals on 20 shots while falling to 14-12-1 on the season and 3-3-1 in his last seven decisions.