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Seeking the comforts of home

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils
Jersey's Team went 28-12-1 on home ice last season.
Prudential Center has been anything but home, sweet, home for the Devils this October. That’s something they would like to change Wednesday, when they host Buffalo.

New Jersey is perfect on the road (5-0-0), but has stumbled on home ice (1-3-0). Head coach Jacques Lemaire sees no cause for concern yet. His Devils are looking for their fourth straight win.

“It’s early, very early, to talk about this,” Lemaire said. “It’s too early right now. There’s nothing that indicates anything – anything. When you look at how the games were played, nothing stood out to say the guys are not playing well. First two games that we played were the games we gave the least chances against, and we lost. Now we’re giving more and we win. What you get out of this, you have no clue.”

The Northeast Division-leading Sabres (6-1-1) have been an early-season surprise after missing the playoffs by two points in 2008-09. Ryan Miller is undefeated in regulation (6-0-1), and entered Tuesday’s action tops in the League in goals-against (1.69) and save percentage (.940). Buffalo has yet to lose on the road (3-0-0).

“We have big teams to play,” Lemaire said. “This is probably the team, or one of the teams, that plays the best. When they don’t get over what they’re trying to do; when they don’t step over the line, they’re great. When they do, they’re only good.”

Derek Roy leads the Sabres with seven points (7a), while Clarke MacArthur and Thomas Vanek are tied for the team’s goal lead (4). Hardly eye-popping totals, but, Lemaire said, balanced lines are what make the Sabres dangerous.

He explained: “Their defensemen are very involved. Sometimes they will overdo it and then they just become good. When they’re sharp, doing it at the right time, they’re great. It seems like they have it controlled pretty well. They have a good power play; a good penalty kill; good 5-on-5; three very well-balanced lines; three lines that can score. I haven’t checked the scoring, but I’m sure they all have points, the forwards, all of them.

“They’re good lines. You’ve got good players on every line, and they’re well-coached, too, by a guy (Lindy Ruff) that knows the business and has been there for a long time.”

Wednesday's game is "U.S. Fund for UNICEF Night" at Prudential Center. The evening will benefit UNICEF by raising funds and awareness to help, among others, victims of the recent natural disasters in the Asia Pacific region.

• Mike Mottau (lower body) missed Saturday’s win in Pittsburgh, but practiced with the team Tuesday and said he feels ready to return.

“It’s up to the coaches now,” Mottau said. “I feel good enough to play, so I’ll be ready if they want me in the lineup.”

Mottau and the rest of the Devils’ defense will play their first game without Paul Martin in the lineup. The announcement came Monday that Martin (forearm) and Jay Pandolfo (shoulder) will miss the next four to six weeks.

“He’s such a huge part of the defensive group here; logs a lot of minutes, quality minutes, quarterback on the PP,” Mottau said of Martin. “Just an all-around great player. But everyone needs to chip in and pick up some of the slack that’s left behind.”

Of the disparity between the Devils’ play on the home and on the road, Mottau agreed that his club has not been as crisp at the Rock.

“I think it’s the small details to the game that we’re sharper with on the road, for some reason,” he said. “That’s just something that guys right through the lineup need to focus on, and play a road-type of game at home."

Peters eyes return to lineup.
• Andrew Peters hopes to be back in the lineup to face his old team on Wednesday. Drafted 34th overall by Buffalo in 1998, Peters spent his first five NHL seasons with the Sabres, appearing in 200 games and collecting four goals, three assists and 557 penalty minutes. He signed with the Devils as a free agent on Sept. 25.

“I’m hoping to be in the lineup every night,” said Peters, who has skated in four of New Jersey’s first nine games. “Doesn’t make it any better than not being in the lineup against Pittsburgh or anyone else. You always want to play. I always wondered, when July 1st rolled around, my first thought was, ‘What’s going to be like to play against my old teammates?’ We’ll see. If I’m in, great, if I’m not, it’s still a game we have to win. It’s not about me or playing against my old team. It’s about keeping this team on its winning ways and continuing to move forward and keep playing well and building off our wins.”

He hasn’t paid close attention to the Sabres this season.

“I’ve never really been a guy that’s followed other teams,” Peters said. “I know where they are in the standings. I don’t know who’s doing what there. I couldn’t tell you who has what stats. But, yeah, they’re doing well, and I know that Ryan's (Miller) playing well. Doesn’t matter. Teams that are ahead of you, you have to catch them. Simple as that.

“I know they’re a good team; they’re a fast team. They’ve got some good players, some dangerous guys around the net. They have a good team. We have a great team, and it’s not like they’re any better than we are at any one thing. There’s a lot of parity in this League nowadays. Doesn’t surprise me that they’re doing that well. I think they’ve had some close games, as have we with shootouts, but more power to them, I guess. We have a very good hockey team here, too.”

• On Monday, the Devils recalled Cory Murphy from Lowell (AHL), where he had two assists and a plus-3 rating in four games. Murphy skated in Tuesday’s practice, as did Colin White, who had a rest day on Monday. Lemaire had seven defenseman on the ice, but said he was not considering using seven in Wednesday’s game and had not yet decided Tuesday on whether Murphy would play against the Sabres.

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