Saturday, March 10, 2007


Game: Devils @ Buffalo, 3 of 4

The New Jersey Devils will end their week-long road trip by visiting the Buffalo Sabres tonight.

Local TV: Fox Sports NY
National TV: HD Net
Local Radio: 660 AM, WFAN
Devils' Record Vs. Buffalo: 1-1-0 Preview

The New Jersey Devils played shorthanded all night against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday, short a forward and a defenseman - with the Lukowich injury late in the game (7-8 seconds left in the third period) dropping NJ to 4 d-men. Fortunately, the Devils will get some relief. For starters, Cam Janssen's suspension has ended. Tom Lycan at Devils Due argues from his post game recap against Pittsburgh that Janssen's character should not be bashed. Fair point, Tom. Fair point. In any case, he's forward #12 provided Brian Gionta isn't ready to come back.

What about defense? Rich Chere's article in today's Star Ledger brings some great news: Brad Lukowich will play. Apparently, the concussion he sustained is quite minor and a number of doctors have said he's OK enough to play. Lukowich says he's playing due to the importance of the game. Gionta is still questionable and Colin White might play despite his sore hand. If you see Mark Fraser or some other defenseman called up from Lowell, then you know White's not playing.

Now, tonight's game is very important. The win over Pittsburgh gave the Devils a very healthy 8 point lead over Pittsburgh in the Atlantic Division. Even though the Penguins have a game in hand, the Devils are in the driver's seat for winning the division provided they don't slump (and the Penguins get hot). The win also gave New Jersey a healthy 8 point lead ahead of the Southeast Division leaders Atlanta. Tonight should determine whether New Jersey will be direct competition for first in the conference. The Devils are only 3 points behind Buffalo. While the Sabres have a game in hand, a win in regulation over the Sabres would be huge. Buffalo's one of the top teams in the league and it gives New Jersey another goal to play for throughout March and April. A Devils loss won't eliminate their chances at coming in first in the conference, but it would make things a lot harder for them.

Buffalo is a very talented team, for sure. Look at the injury list for Buffalo at TSN's web site. Maxim Afinogenov, Paul Gaustad, Ales Kotalik, Daniel Paille, Jaroslav Spacek, and Andrew Peters have all been injured and will likely not at all play tonight. Chris Drury was even out for awhile and just came back recently. The Sabres have been hit with injuries badly and yet they keep winning, going 6-3-1 in their last 10 games. The Sabres are loaded with scorers. Daniel Breire (27 , 52 A), Thomas Vanek (34 G, 30 A), Chris Drury (33 G, 24 A), Jason Pominville (27 G, 27 A), and the recently acquired Danius Zubrus (20 G, 32 A). No disrespect for Derek Roy (13 G, 35 A) and Jochen Hecht (16 G, 29 A); but that's 5 active skaters with 20 or more goals. 6 if you include the injured Afinogenov (23 G, 34 A). That's impressive to say the least.

The Sabres are deep and balanced with their scoring and it's going to take a near-perfect game on defense and by Martin Brodeur to limit them as much as possible. It's not impossible, the Devils did just that in a 3-2 win over Buffalo back in February. My post game review of that game is linked here and it pretty much spells out what the Devils need to do tonight. They need to control the pace of the game, be sharp in their passing, and they need to make the most of all of their opportunities. Mind you, the Devils pretty much did all that and yet the game ended with a 3-2 score with a late goal by Buffalo. I know it's a cliche, but this is a game where playing for less than 60 minutes will all but guarantee a loss. As mentioned in the Chere article, head coach Claude Julien called off practice to give the Devils some extra rest. A wise move, because the Sabres have been working opponents hard all year long.

Don't pay any attention to the fact that Buffalo lost their last two games, they are still the Sabres - a team that can willingly destroy most other teams on any given night. The Devils won't take them lightly and neither should anyone else. In any case, the Sabres want to preserve their position with a win and the Devils will need one to catch up to Buffalo. That means some great hockey will be played tonight.

If you need another preview, Trendon Lynch at On Fire has a good one here wherein he asks for Erik Rasmussen to improve. True enough, Erik's got to do better but I think Sergei Brylin will be with Patrik Elias and Scott Gomez on the first line tonight. It also points out that Ryan Miller historically does poorly against the Devils; but with the way the Sabres have been playing all season, I don't know whether it matters a lot. In either case, GO DEVILS!


Good game Devils. I'm a Sabres fan, but I'll give credit.

I quick question: I'm sick of the ignorant Sabres fans complaining about the 'Trap'. I watched a few devils games an did not see evidence of a hard trap. Would you say that label is over used?

Thanks for your comment, Johnathan. Of course it's overused; but it's to the point where most Devils fans have a sense of humor about it. Well, at least I have one about it.

Collectively, We've heard "It's THE TRAP~!11!!1!!" for about 12 years now even when the Devils don't use it in games. At this point, I don't mind sarcastically describing everything that the Devils do well as the result of the trap.
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