Tuesday, December 12, 2006


Game: Buffalo @ Devils

The Buffalo Sabres travel to the Continental Airlines Arena to take on the New Jersey Devils for the first time this season.

National TV: Versus
Local Radio: 660 AM, WFAN
NHL.com Preview

The Devils are in for a challenge tonight. The Buffalo Sabres are loaded with speed, offense, speed, talent, a stingy defense, and more speed. Look at their top 10 point scorers:
  1. Thomas Vanek - 17 G, 17 A
  2. Daniel Briere - 14 G, 20 A
  3. Maxim Afinogenov - 12 G, 21 A
  4. Chris Drury - 17 G, 11 A
  5. Jason Pominville - 12 G, 9 A
  6. Brian Campbell - 4 G, 16 A
  7. Jochen Hecht - 6 G, 12 A
  8. Ales Kotalik - 6 G, 10 A
  9. Derek Roy - 5 G, 11 A
  10. Teppo Numminen - 0 G, 15 A
Their top ten scorers range from 38 points to 15. 5 players already with at least 10 goals this season. Numminen and Campbell are the only defensemen on that list; meaning the Sabres pretty much have 3 scoring lines. Plus, the Sabres have Ryan Miller at goaltender, who has been effective this season (and was really good last season). His current stat line is 15-3-2, with a 2.70 GAA and a save percentage of 91.4%. The Sabres are the 2nd best team in the NHL with a record of 22-5-2, sporting an impressive record of 13-3-0 on the road. They have a good power play (17.7% efficiency, 12th best in the NHL) and a good penalty kill (83.3% efficiency, 14th best in the NHL). The Sabres are a very strong team and will absolutely pound the Devils if they are not careful.

Unfortunately for the Sabres, the Devils are more than just careful. They are playing Devils hockey.

They are unbeaten in their last 5, and are 11-1-1 at home so far this year. The power play has been much improved and, in turn, much more productive - now 14th in the NHL with a 17.4% efficiency. The Devils penalty kill is the 4th best penalty kill in the NHL, with an efficiency of 87.8%. Patrik Elias has been on fire with 4 goals and 6 assists in the last 6 games. Brian Gionta has seemed to have gotten his groove back with a goal and 3 assists in the last 2 games. The defense has improved, even Brad Lukowich has been dependable. Martin Brodeur is exactly who you thought he was: brilliant. The Devils are confident, they are hot, and it would be no surprise if they beat Buffalo. After all, the Sabres haven't exactly lit the world on fire as of late on their current road trip. They just won 3-2 in a shootout over Montreal in Montreal last Saturday, prior to that: they lost 3-1 to Florida in Florida, decisively beat Tampa Bay 4-1, and got defeated by Washington 7-4 to begin the road trip.

The key is scoring first. The first goal can and most likely will dictate the pace of the game, something that the Devils have done very well for the last 10 years or so. The Devils are 14-2-1 when scoring the first goal for a reason. I must add this caveat. If the Devils hope to win tonight, they can not sit on a lead. The Sabres are not just fast, but loaded with offensive talent that has gotten results so far this season. The Devils will need to keep piling it on Ryan Miller and the defense (which may or may not be without Teppo Numminen). My projected lines:




As always, all stats are from NHL.com. GO DEVILS!


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