The Buffalo Sabres have had a trying season. The franchise has dealt with a rash of injuries while also tying an NHL-record with an 18-game winless streak (0-15-3). In the midst, they relieved head coach Ralph Krueger of his duties and turned to interim Don Granato.
The Sabres have broken out of their mired wake, and since defeating Philadelphia, 6-1, they've gone 2-0-2 in their past four games.
"It takes the weight off your shoulders. You feel a lot better about yourself," Devils head coach Lindy Ruff said of Buffalo snapping the losing streak. "If you look at where they're at now than where they were at two weeks ago, it's a lot different place.
"Once you get that losing streak behind you, you can take off and go the other direction."
The Devils are 3-2-1 on the year against Buffalo, and the teams have played some closely contested games during the season. Ruff expects much of the same.
"They're playing with really good pace. They've got a group that skates really well," Ruff said. "You'll see a team that'll be able to skate with us. They have a lot of young players that are getting more ice time right now.
"We know we have our hands full. This is a team that's playing well, that's skating well right now. Their goaltender has been playing well for them. I anticipate this being a really tough matchup."
HOCKEY FIGHTS CANCER
During Tuesday night's game against Buffalo, the Devils will be supporting the NHL's annual Hockey Fights Cancer initiative. The club will be honoring former Harris Blitzer Sports and Entertainment employee Dean Brzuskiewicz, local youth hockey player Franco Monnecka and patients, survivors and caretakers throughout the game, while raising money to benefit the Clara Maass Medical Infusion Center, an RWJBarnabas Health Facility.
"I think most people have been touched by friends, family that have been affected by cancer," Ruff said. "We have to help do what we can as a team, and do what we can as individuals to fight a disease that affected so many."
The Devils and Sabres will meet for the seventh time this season. New Jersey is 3-2-1 against Buffalo, and 1-2-0 at Prudential Center.
Forward Pavel Zacha leads the Devils in the season series with six assists and seven points while Miles Wood has four goals and five points. Buffalo's Sam Reinhart (3G-2A), Victor Olofsson (2-3), Rasmus Dahlin (1-4) and Taylor Hall (0-5) each have five points against New Jersey.
Devils Team Scope:
The Devils are 5-4-3 in their past 12 games, and have proven that they can go toe-to-toe with some of the heavyweights in the division: Pittsburgh (2-1-0), Washington (0-1-1), Boston (1-0-1). They finished March on a 5-3-2 run, which ranked as the fourth-best point total (12) in the NHL in that time frame, and posted the seventh-best PK in the entire month at 84.8 percent.
Forward Jesper Bratt has nine points (3G-6A) in his last 11 games and 13 (3-10) in his past 17. Defenseman Ryan Murray has six assists and a plus-6 in his last three contests.
Forward Tyce Thompson joined the club for his first NHL practice last Thursday afternoon. The team's fourth-round pick (96th overall) in the 2019 Draft played the last three seasons with Providence College. When he makes his NHL debut, which could be Tuesday against his brother Tage, he will become the 19th Devils' draft pick to play in a game for the team since 2015.
The Devils scratched Kyle Palmieri in their Sunday game for "precautionary reasons." With the trade deadline one week away, New Jersey is shopping the veteran center. Though he is beloved throughout the entire organization (from management to coaches to teammates), this is the business of sports.
Sabres Team Scope:
It's been a record-breaking year for the Sabres, but not in a good way. They set an NHL record with an 18-game winless streak (0-15-3), which was snapped March 31 in a 6-1 victory against Philadelphia.
The win was the first for interim head coach Don Granato, who replaced Ralph Krueger on March 17. With a shootout victory Sunday against the NY Rangers, Buffalo is now 2-0-2 in its past four games.
Reinhart leads the team in goals (13) and points (24). Hall has a team-best 17 assists. Olofsson has 10 goals and 22 points on the year.
By the Numbers:
Devils Goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood has a 4-2-1 record with a 2.24 goals-against average and .937 save percentage in his last seven outings. He's made an average of 34 saves in that stretch.
Goalie Linus Ullmark is 3-0-0 with a 1.76 GAA and .949 save percentage against New Jersey this season.