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Sabres aim to stay consistent vs. Devils

Jokiharju could see time on power play; Eichel enters with 9-game point streak

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

Buffalo Sabres coach Ralph Krueger liked the way his team found consistency in its defensive game throughout a difficult stretch of five contests in seven days last week. 

The Sabres went 2-1-2 in those games, ending the week with three out of four points in a back-to-back set with Toronto on Friday and Saturday. They'll look to maintain that consistency during another busy stretch that begins tonight against the New Jersey Devils at KeyBank Center.

"I even go back six games, including the Boston game, as far as habits are concerned and principles," Krueger said. "We just feel there's a real consistency coming into our 5-on-5 game that gives us a chance every night and against some of the best teams in the league, we've been able to do that. 

"It has also helped the confidence. … Whether we scored and took leads, or we fell behind and needed to scrap ourselves out of it, you could really feel a consistency in understanding what we need to do to be the best team we can be. It's a good feeling right now in the room, a confident feeling, and it's important that we take another week of building on that."

Video: PREGAME: Krueger

The Sabres will wait until game time to announce their lineup. Krueger said the team could dress 11 forwards and seven defensemen as it has for three of the past four games. 

No defenseman skated more than 20 minutes in either Toronto game, which Krueger felt made them able to increase their offensive involvement. Rasmus Ristolainen scored Saturday on a drive to the net in the third period.

Video: BUF@TOR: Ristolainen slips backhand past Andersen

"One of the things that we found is possible when we go seven D is they can be more involved, more freely involved, in the offense too," Krueger said. 

"Sometimes, with six D, you end up with a long shift, you've got one between, you're back out and it restricts your offensive inputs on the rush, how we'd like the D to get involved in the O-zone, and so on and so forth. Offensively, we seem to be slightly more aggressive right through the whole game."

Linus Ullmark was the first goaltender off the ice at the morning skate, suggesting he could get the start in net. Ullmark is coming off a 25-save victory overt the Maple Leafs on Friday. 


Tweaks to the power play 

The Sabres showed new looks to both power-play units during their morning skate. Notably, Henri Jokiharju manned the point on a unit with Jack Eichel, Jeff Skinner, Victor Olofsson, and Sam Reinhart. 

Jokiharju averaged 1:00 on the power play during his 38-game stint with Chicago last season, though he has yet to play with the extra man in Buffalo this season. Krueger said the 20-year-old's poise under pressure will make him an option against the Devils.

"With the way penalty killing is today, you don't have the time and space that you sometimes think you have because of the attacking nature of everybody, whether it's through the neutral zone or into the O-zone before you get control," Krueger said. "We just like the way he solves pressure. He has a lot of confidence on the puck right now, and that's why we see him as an option there."

The team's other unit this morning consisted of Colin Miller, Ristolainen, Conor Sheary, Casey Mittelstadt, and Marcus Johansson. 


Scouting the Devils

The Devils rank 15th in the Eastern Conference with 22 points coming off a 4-0 loss to the New York Rangers on Saturday. They also rank among the NHL's bottom five in both goals scored (2.56) and allowed (3.48) per game. 

New Jersey will be without No. 1 pick Jack Hughes, who has a lower-body injury. Hughes has 11 points (4+7) in 24 games this season. 

The Sabres won the first matchup between the two teams, 7-2, in their home opener on Oct. 5. Sam Reinhart and Victor Olofsson tallied two goals each in that game. 


Number to know: 9 

Jack Eichel enters tonight's game on a 9-game point streak that dates back to his four-goal outing against Ottawa on Nov. 16.

Eichel is tied with Colorado's Nathan MacKinnon for the NHL lead since then with 16 points, while his eight goals in that span rank second to Boston's David Pastrnak. 


Happy Birthday, Sabres 

The Sabres will be holding Founders' Night in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the day Buffalo was awarded an NHL franchise: Dec. 2, 1969. Find more info on tonight's festivities here

Coverage on MSG begins at 6:30 p.m. Puck drop is scheduled for 7. 

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