Bad Second Period Dooms Devils to Loss in Buffalo

The Devils jumped out to an early one goal lead but let a bad second period where the Sabres scored five unanswered to hurt them and lead to a 5-1 loss at KeyBank Center.

Some roster moves to get to before we begin. John Quenneville was sent back to Binghamton yesterday and defenseman Egor Yakovlev was recalled. He was a healthy scratch tonight along with Mirco Mueller. Mackenzie Blackwood was also a scratch but he is still recovering from his lower body injury suffered earlier in the road trip. Cam Johnson was the backup again tonight as Blackwood “is progressing nicely” according to the team and MSG’s Erika Wachter.

Speaking of injury, Buffalo would be without Jack Eichel, who is also hurt. This would seem to favor the Devils, but the rest of the Sabres’ roster stepped up enough to fill that offensive void.

Between the pipes, Keith Kinkdaid went for the Devils. He was a career 3-0-0 against Buffalo in his career coming into tonight. He stopped 28 of the 33 shots the Sabres threw his way. For Buffalo, Carter Hutton started as he stopped 20 of the 21 shots the Devils fired in on him.

Special teams-wise, New Jersey continued its dominant penalty kill, but struggled on the power play once again. The Devils had their chances, going 0-for-4 with three shots (plus a shorthanded shot to go with things). The Sabres were kept 0-for-1 with two shots on the power play and two shorthanded shots, one of which they scored on.

Blake Coleman got the Devils up by one just 1:28 into the game. He scored from Miles Wood and Travis Zajac. It was a puck luck bounce as Wood just threw the puck to the net and it bounced in off of Coleman’s skate. The assist to Zajac moves him up the Devils’ all-time leading scoring list to fourth all-time, past Scott Gomez and behind only Patrik Elias, John MacLean and Kirk Muller.

A weird play with 13:38 to go in the first as Steven Santini blocked a shot at the side of the Devils’ net and the puck bounced to Nico Hischier, who was off to the races on a clear cut breakaway from the Devils’ blue line. The only problem was that for some reason the referee had blown the whistle to stop play. The best MSG analyst Ken Daneyko could come up with was that the official thought that the puck was in Kinkaid’s glove as he lost sight of it. Anyway, this was a tough break for the Devils and kept the score at 1-0.

The Devils kept that lead until 1:39 into the second period when Jeff Skinner scored his 29th of the season from Tage Thompson. Skinner scored off the rush to tie things, sniping one under the crossbar and down. That made it 1-1, but things were about to go downhill for the Devils very fast.

At the 4:14 mark, CJ Smith scored his first career NHL goal when his shot trickled by Kinkaid and Sami Vatanen tried to clear it from the goal line to no avail. The goal was reviewed and the call on the ice of good goal stood, it was 2-1 Sabres. Johan Larsson and Kyle Okposo had the assists on the goal.

At 10:42, Casey Mittelstadt chipped a second-chance effort over Kinkaid’s right pad to make it 3-1. Zach Bogosian and Rasmus Dahlin had the assists there.

At 16:00, Jake McCabe scored shorthanded while Skinner was in the box for slashing Brett Seney. He scored on a 2-on-1 as McCabe blocked a shot at the Sabres’ blue line then jumped up with Evan Rodrigues on the rush. Rodrigues sold a shot and passed to McCabe who buried it behind Kinkaid to make it 4-1. Vladimir Sobotka had the other assist on this goal.

The Sabres capped off this onslaught 1:45 later when Lawrence Pilut shot through traffic to beat Kinkaid, who was without a stick. This was Pilut’s first career NHL goal as well. Conor Sheary and Rasmus Ristolainen had the assists on that one. It was now 5-1 Sabres and that would be our final.

According to MSG’s Steve Cangiolosi, this was the first time since November of last season that the Devils gave up five in a single period. They did that last year at Winnipeg. Former-Sabre Drew Stafford seemingly scored on his former team with 12:52 to go in the third. The light never went on and his shot seemed to just tickle the twine under the crossbar, but Toronto had its look and said no goal. Upon replay, the puck apparently hit the crossbar and came out. It was just one of those nights for the Devils.

Buffalo got their lone power play when Stefan Noesen and Rodrigues got into it midway through the third. Noesen drew a double minor for roughing while Rodrigues only got two minutes. The Devils killed that off and remain good on the PK. Both Pilut and Wood got ten minute misconduct penalties late in the third.

Stats-wise, the Devils were outshot 33-21, won 46-percent of the draws in the game, were out hit 13-11. They did block more shots than Buffalo at 19 to the Sabres’ 11 and had less giveaways at three to the Sabres’ six.

Individually, Zajac led all Devils skaters with 20:51 of ice time (4:20 on the PP and 1:11 shorthanded). Vatanen led the defensemen with 20:32 (2:40 PP/1:44 PK). Shots on goal were led by Damon Severson with four, hits by Blake Pietila with three, blocks by Coleman with three and takeaways by Brett Seney with one.

So the Devils need to shake this game off and come out angry for their next game. They return home on Thursday to faceoff with the Toronto Maple Leafs at The Rock. The Leafs are one of the best in the league and hopefully the Devils will play with some urgency on Thursday. I will be attending this game so my post will be up a little bit later. If you would like to comment on this game, please feel free to leave your thoughts in the section below. They are always appreciated.

Brian Gionta Retires

According to a story on NHL.com, former Devil Brian Gionta has retired after 16 seasons. The Rochester, New York-native will rejoin the Buffalo Sabres – of whom he was captain while playing for them from 2014-15 to 2016-17 – in an unspecified role.

Gionta, 39, was chosen 82nd overall in the third round of the 1998 NHL Entry Draft by the Devils out of Boston College. He joined the team in 2001-02 and won the 2003 Stanley Cup with the team. In 2005-06, he broke the Devils’ single-season goal scoring recorded with 48. He broke Pat Verbeek’s mark of 46 set in 1987-88.

He signed as a free agent with the Montreal Canadiens in 2009, where he also served as a rare American-born captain of the famed French-Canadian team. He played with the Habs from 2009-10 until 2013-14. He signed with Buffalo as a free agent in 2014, his hometown team.

He would sit out most of the 2017-18 season in order to qualify for the 2018 Winter Olympics with Team USA and signed as a free agent with the Boston Bruins on February 25, 2018. He played in 20 regular season games for the Bruins last year, scoring two goals and five assists for seven points.

He also represented the United States in the 1999 World Juniors, playing six games and scoring six goals and five assists for 11 points over the tournament.

According to Hockey-Reference.com, his Devils career statistics saw him play in 473 games over his seven years with New Jersey. He notched 152 goals (including 48 on the power play and five shorthanded) and 160 helpers for 312 points total. He had 227 penalty minutes to go with all of that. He also finished with 30 game winning goals.

Playoffs-wise, he appeared in 113 total games, with 32 goals and 36 assists for 68 points. With the Devils, he appeared in 67 playoff games, netting 19 goals and 21 assists for 40 points. He got into one playoff game, his final one, last season for Boston.

His career NHL regular season stats saw him appear in 1,026 games, scoring 291 goals and 304 assists for 595 points.

Gionta was quoted in the NHL.com article as saying: “I’m announcing my retirement today. Looking forward to spending more time with my family and also playing a small part in the organization. Looking forward to that next step of my career.” He also added, “Playing with my childhood team, the Sabres, was a highlight of my career.”

In the NHL.com article, Sabres star center Jack Eichel was quoted (via The Buffalo News) as saying, “He’s somebody I grew up watching and all of a sudden I’m sitting a few stalls away from him my first years in the NHL. That was cool. It’s an unbelievable career and I’m just happy I was able to be a part of it.”

Congratulations to Brian Gionta on a fantastic career and good luck to him in retirement in the Sabres’ front office.

Prospects Challenge Kicks Off as Devils Fall to Sabres 6-4

Hockey season has officially started! Kind of.

The 2018 Prospects Challenge got underway tonight at HarborCenter in Buffalo as the Devils took on the Buffalo Sabres in the first game of the rookie mini preseason tournament.

The Sabres came away with the 6-4 win as they looked a little bit more physical than the Devils and threw their bodies around, taking advantage of their bigger size overall. The Devils did a good job of responding generally, especially John Quenneville, who was arguably the Devils’ most physical player.

Two other takeaways from the game that I noticed was the Devils’ ability to respond offensively, as the majority of the game would see Buffalo go up a goal and the Devils immediately tie things up. It remained that way until the third period when the Sabres finally pulled away and scored two to take the 6-4 lead that would be the final.

The other thing of note was the debut of the first overall pick in this summer’s NHL Draft: Rasmus Dahlin, who had a pair of goals and an assist. He seemed to be real deal for the Sabres and gave the Devils some fits all night.

Of a minor note was the condition of the ice. It is still hot and humid out in Buffalo and the ice was not in the best of shape.

Regardless of some of the negatives, the Devils who did stand out were Brett Seney and this year’s first round draft pick, Ty Smith. Smith, especially was praised by the Buffalo announcers who were calling the game for putting a good showing in. Seney recorded a goal in the first period, the one that tied it up at one.

Cole Coskey had the first goal of the game for the Sabres, scoring at the 17:31 mark of the first. Seney tied it at one on the power play at 18:53.

In the second period, Victor Olofsson scored at 7:02 before Nathan Bastain tied things up just over 30 seconds later.

Buffalo then jumped out to a two goal lead as Alexander Nylander scored shorthanded at 10:19 and Dahlin scored his first 59 seconds later at even strength. The Sabres crowd gave the first overall pick a standing ovation following the goal, but his night was just getting started.

The Devils would respond quickly to those two goals, as Colton White scored at 11:53 and Fabian Zetterlund scored at 12:01. Seney had the lone assist on Zetterlund’s goal, giving him two points on the night.

In the third period, the Sabres pulled away when Dahlin put them up 5-4 for his second of the night at 4:28. Dahlin would also assist on Tage Thompson’s shorthanded goal that ended the night. It was the second shorty of the night for the Sabres.

The Devils were a perfect 5-for-5 on the penalty kill but failed to scored on any of their seven power plays.

In goal, Mackenzie Blackwood looked pretty good, making 26 saves on Buffalo’s 32 shots on goal for a .812 save percentage. Buffalo’s Jonas Johansson made 30 saves on 34 Devils shots.

The Devils next play tomorrow at 3 PM against the Pittsburgh Penguins prospects.

Devils Stop Slide With 3-1 Win in Buffalo

With 34 games remaining in the next 68 days, the Devils got a few key faces back in the lineup and it paid off as the team snapped a four game losing streak with a 3-1 win over the Sabres in Buffalo.

Taylor Hall and Mirco Mueller returned to the lineup as the Devils ran with eleven forwards and seven defensemen. Hall returned to team with Nico Hischier and Jesper Bratt on the top line. Cory Schneider, who has resumed off-ice workouts, but is not skating yet, and Brian Gibbons remain out. Jimmy Hayes and Steven Santini were the healthy scratches.

Someone else making their return to the lineup was Keith Kinkaid. He mentioned in the pregame that his injury could have been worse than it was. He made 27 saves on 28 shots faced and was spectacular at times, especially at the end of the game on a key penalty kill that we will get to later.

Going for Buffalo was Robin Lehner, who had a good shutout streak going. The Sabres’ goaltending tandem of Chad Johnson and Lehner had a great Western Canadian road trip prior to the All-Star break where they shutout both Vancouver and Edmonton. Tonight, he made 25 saves on 27 shots as his personal shutout streak ended at 145:15 and the Sabres’ team shutout streak ended at a whopping 199:09 when Miles Wood scored the first goal of the game.

This was the Devils third game this season against Buffalo, with the Devils blowing out the Sabres in Buffalo back in October and the Sabres winning in overtime in Newark in December. That OT loss to Buffalo sort of started the Devils slide. They only had two wins in their last 12 games.

Following a scoreless first period, the scoring began in the second period at 5:49 when Wood scored. It came when Kyle Palmieri made a nice play along the near boards to get the puck up to Will Butcher in the neutral zone. He quickly gave to Wood at the far boards and Wood sprinted into the Sabres’ zone, cutting in on Lehner and scoring on his backhand. The play was made possible by Wood’s speed and his ability to use it better than he had last year, he told MSG’s Deb Placey postgame. That gave the Devils a 1-0 lead.

After that, the Devils had a nice scoring opportunity when Palmieri took a shot late in the period that was saved by Lehner. Lehner held on but was spun around into the Sabres’ net. Somehow he kept the puck out of the net and under his body.

That was where it stood going into the third period. But Hall would double the Devils lead just 5:31 into the third frame. It happened when Ben Lovejoy broke out of the Devils’ zone by giving to Hischier. Hischier went up ice and gave to Bratt just inside the Buffalo blue line. Bratt made a beautiful no-look, behind the back pass to Hall, who beat Lehner low glove side to make it 2-0 Devils. It was Hall’s team-leading 19th goal of the year.

The Devils would get into some penalty trouble as Andy Greene took an interference call against Evan Rodrigues at the 13:02 mark of the third. Jake McCabe would score on that power play to make it 2-1. He got an assist from Ryan O’Reilly at 14:58. Buffalo won the faceoff cleanly and McCabe fired a wristshot with the puck on edge and found twine behind Kinkaid. The Sabres would end the night 1-for-4 on the power play with ten big shots. The Devils did not have a power play opportunity on the night.

Late in the game, with the Devils clinging to a 2-1 lead, Jesper Bratt was hit hard by McCabe. Nico Hischier took exception to the hit on his linemate as Bratt seemed to be in some pain. Nico got called for cross checking McCabe at 17:15 and Buffalo would go on a crucial power play. They would pull Lehner for the 6-on-4 man advantage, but the Devils killed that off with some help from Kinkaid’s big saves. Hischier came out of the penalty box, but over skated the puck on the way to an empty netter.

Finally, Palmieri took the puck from a Sabres player headed up ice and gently laid it into the net. The goal was actually reviewed from Toronto, to see if the initial zone break-in by Brian Boyle was offside. The linesmen concluded that it was not and we had a good goal, putting the Devils up 3-1 with six seconds remaining in the game. That put it away and iced a Devils victory.

Stats saw Greene lead in ice time with 21:13, Hall lead in shots on goal with five, Drew Stafford and Blake Coleman tie for the lead in hits with three each, Greene lead in blocks with four and Palmieri lead in takeaways with two. The Devils won 46-percent of the game’s faceoffs.

Next up for New Jersey, they have a crucial Metropolitan Division showdown with the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday at home. The Devils have had a rough time of it this year against Philly and we will find out if they can finally break through and gain two big Metro Division points then.

Sabres Snap Devils’ Bid For Perfect Homestand in OT

Sports are weird. The Devils had won five straight games and six out of their last seven. They are in the hunt for first place in the Metropolitan Division, the toughest division in the Eastern Conference, if not the entire NHL. The Devils were rolling this holiday season and nothing seemed to be able to derail them.

Then along come the Buffalo Sabres, last place in the Eastern Conference, falling behind in the much weaker Atlantic Division. They had won only one overtime game this year and were just struggling overall. But, instead of the script going the way it should have – the Devils winning on home ice and sweeping a homestand of more than five games for the first time in their 35 years of existence – the Sabres were the ones who prevailed, in OT, 4-3. They came back from a two goal deficit and a little bit of help from instant replay to top the Devils.

Buffalo is currently on an extended road trip (one which includes a “home” game at Citi Field against the Rangers in the Winter Classic) due to the IIHF World Junior Championship taking over their facilities in Western New York.

A roster move to inform you about: Dalton Prout cleared waivers and was assigned to Binghamton of the AHL. The Devils had to make this move after the Christmas break roster freeze and getting everyone back and healthy. Also, Prout had not played since October or so, so it was only fair to get him some playing time in the American League. Tonight, Jimmy Hayes, Ben Lovejoy and Drew Stafford were the healthy scratches.

In goal, Cory Schneider was making another start for the Devils. He has gotten back to being his usual workhorse self this season. He made 25 saves on 29 Sabres shots. Facing him was Robin Lehner who made 35 saves on the night on 38 Devils shots. The Devils saw Lehner in relief earlier in the season up in Buffalo in what was a rout in favor of New Jersey.

The Devils got the scoring kicked off 13:35 into the first period. Damon Severson broke into the Buffalo zone and gave it to Pavel Zacha. He dished to Stefan Noesen, who jammed it in on Lehner. Miles Wood was trailing and was relentless in the goal mouth scramble, continuing to chip away at the puck and finding it loose and putting it by Lehner to make it 1-0 Devils.

That lead would last until 5:27 into the second period when an old friend struck back at the Devils. Jacob Josefson scored his second of the season on a partial breakaway off an intercepted pass in the Sabres’ zone to tie things up at one. He got an assist from Jordan Nolan.

From there the Devils seemed to take control of the game. It began when Marcus Johansson scored at 8:34 on the power play. Zemgus Girgensons had gone off for holding setting that up and Johansson skated the puck into the Sabres’ zone. He gave to Jesper Bratt at the top of the far faceoff circle, who passed to Sami Vatanen at the point. Vatanen passed down to Nico Hischier at the near half wall. Hischier moved back and forth, drawing some pressure to him and then gave back to Vatanen at the point. He one-touched a pass to Johansson, who was lurking at the far faceoff dot. Johansson one-timed a shot by Lehner to give the Devils back the lead, 2-1.

That power play goal made the Devils 1-for-2 on the night. They had one shot on those two power plays. Buffalo was 1-for-3 with five shots.

The Devils would add to their lead 14:55 into the second period when John Moore struck for his fifth of the year. It happened when the puck was dumped into the Sabres’ zone and Nathan Beaulieu tried to wind the puck around the boards. It was cut off by Brian Gibbons, who gave to Moore at the near point. He fired and beat Lehner to make it 3-1 Devils.

From there, however, the wheels would begin to fall off for the Devils. It began, as it usually does, with a goal given up late in the period. Jack Eichel scored from Jake McCabe and Girgensons at the 18:05 mark of the second period. Eichel had redirected McCabe’s shot to make it 3-2 Devils. The Sabres would then tie things up at three when Eichel scored his second of the game 11:04 into the third period from Kyle Okposo and Rasmus Ristolainen. That goal came on the power play as Vatanen was sitting for slashing. Eichel would nearly notch the hat trick when he would hit the crossbar with less than two minutes left in the game.

Then the weird part of the game, as the Devils had seemingly retaken the lead at 7:42 of the third when Taylor Hall skated in and beat Lehner with a beautiful move. Sabres coach Phil Housley challenged the goal, claiming Hall was offsides when he entered the Sabres zone. They won, as the replay showed that Hall was essentially bobbling the puck in the air when he entered the zone, meaning he did not have full control of it. It was a nice play on Hall’s part, but was deemed no goal by the officials. The game was still tied up at three.

So, after all of that, time in regulation expired and we were headed off to overtime. It was Buffalo’s second straight OT game, having lost to the Islanders the other night. The OT period was amazing, with action going back-and-forth for about two and a half minutes until, at 2:37, Ristolainen found twine behind Cory off an assist to Ryan O’Reilly to make it a 4-3 final.

So, some stats on the night. Vatanen was the ice time leader, eating up 23:15. He also led the Devils in shots on goal with a whopping eight. Steven Santini led in hits with four, while Travis Zajac and Moore both led in blocks with two apiece. The Devils won only 39-percent of their faceoffs as a team.

Next up, tomorrow, a showdown with the Washington Capitals in Washington. The Devils actually still lead the Metro Division, having gained their 50th point tonight. The Caps will be a stiff test and something the Devils have not seen in a long time. That will also be the second half of a back-to-back (the Capitals did not play tonight, making things tougher for the Devils) and the final game for the Devils in the 2017 calendar year. We will see you then.

How Swede it is: Johansson and Bratt Each Net Three Points in Devils Win

The Devils came into Buffalo for their first road game of the 2017-18 season after knocking off the Avalanche 4-1 for their first win on Saturday. That was in front of a raucous home crowd sellout. This would be in front of a hostile Sabres crowd in a 3 PM Columbus Day matinee.

And the Devils were ready. Some injury news as Kyle Palmieri and Drew Stafford are each day-to-day with lower body injuries, but did make the road trip, so they could be back as soon as Wednesday in Toronto. Dalton Prout was a healthy scratch and Ben Lovejoy and Miles Wood both slotted back in as New Jersey went with eleven forwards and seven defensemen for the afternoon. Nico Hischier got the military jacket after the Colorado game, being named as a player who came to the aid of his teammates. This is a new tradition in the Devils’ locker room, borne out of their trip to West Point during training camp.

Getting to the highlights, as there were a lot of them in a 6-2 Devils win, Sefan Noesen scored the first goal of the game at the 6:28 mark of the first period when Noesen threw the puck in front of the net. In the scramble that ensued, Brian Gibbons chipped the puck back in front from the side of the goal mouth and it deflected in off of Noesen’s face shield, giving him credit for the goal. Off that unusual play, Noesen had his first of the year while the Devils had the 1-0 lead.

Gibbons would play a role in the second goal of the game too, one which would see the Devils go into the first break leading 2-0. On that one, Hischier skated behind the Sabres’ net, reversing course on Buffalo defenseman Marco Scandella. He threw the puck back in front where Gibbons shoveled it home for the 2-0 lead. Marcus Johansson had the secondary assist, his first of three points on the night. That one came at the 18:56 mark of the first period. The assist was Nico’s first career NHL point and it was a crucial one. Congratulations to him.

The second period began with Evander Kane scoring his first of two on the day for Buffalo on the power play at 5:02, sole assist to Rasmus Ristolainen. Kane had a good game for the Sabres, as he seemed to be the only beating heart that they had all afternoon. The Devils lead was cut in half, 2-1.

That goal was scored while the Devils were serving a bench minor for a faceoff violation. During that penalty, which was wiped out when Kane scored, Steven Santini took a slashing penalty on the goal, which would put the Devils right back on the penalty kill.

But the Devils would respond shorthanded, at 5:23 of the period when Jesper Bratt scored. It was set up when Adam Henrique burst into the Buffalo zone with Bratt on a two-on-one. Henrique dished to Bratt, who calmly took the puck on his forehand and slid it to his backhand, beating goaltender Chad Johnson to make it 3-1 Devils. Mirco Mueller had the secondary assist on that goal. That would open the flood gates for New Jersey. Buffalo gave up four shorthanded goals all last season. This was their fourth given up in three games this year alone.

At 7:49 of the second, Johansson would make it 4-1 when the Devils won a faceoff deep in their zone. The puck was chipped ahead and Taylor Hall, who was a disruptive force on the forecheck all afternoon, stole the puck in the Buffalo zone and made a backhanded pass to Johansson, who would calmly knock it by Johnson on his backhand. It was an impressive goal and showed how tenacious Hall can be.

Bratt would strike with his second goal of the game to make it 5-1 at 12:19 when Andy Greene would keep the puck in the Buffalo zone and pass cross-ice to Hall. Hall wound up like he was going to shoot, but saw Bratt streaking in through the slot. He passed to Bratt, who redirected it by Johnson. The Devils were rolling.

Johansson, a known Sabre-killer when he was with Washington, would finish up the Devils’ offensive onslaught at 18:56 of the second when he and Bratt broke in on a two-on-one. Bratt threaded the needle under Nathan Beaulieu’s stick and Johansson buried it to make it 6-1. That was Johansson’s second goal of the game and both he and Bratt’s third points of the night.

The third period saw Chad Johnson replaced in the Buffalo net by Robin Lehner. Johnson made 16 saves on 22 shots while Lehner was a perfect 9-for-9. The Devils had a total of 31 shots on goal. Cory Schneider made 23 saves on 25 Sabres’ shots.

That last goal came off the stick of Evander Kane, his second of the game, at 17:03 of the third period from Jason Pominville. That made the final 6-2. Kane would end up with the most shots on goal of any player in the game with seven. Gibbons (five) and Coleman (four) led New Jersey in shots on goal.

With Kane’s first goal, Buffalo went 1-for-4 on the power play while the Devils – whose power play was clicking versus Colorado on Saturday – went 0-for-4.

One other event of note in the game was the scrap between Beaulieu and Miles Wood in the second period (at 12:07). Wood was chomping at the bit to get back in the lineup and it showed.

So, with their first road win out of the way, the Devils continue their road trip in Toronto on Wednesday to take on the Maple Leafs. The Leafs are a young, fast, dynamic team and will pose a real test to the Devils. We will find out Wednesday if New Jersey has what it takes to skate with one of the more elite teams in the Eastern Conference.

Devils Open Prospects Challenge With OT Win Over Buffalo

Tonight at the KeyBank Rink at the HarborCenter in Buffalo, New York, the prospects of the New Jersey Devils kicked off their 2017 Prospects Challenge experience by taking on the Buffalo Sabres’ young guns.

The teams fought to a 3-3 tie through regulation with the Devils prevailing 4-3 in overtime.

The game was streamed over the Devils’ website and I did have some technical difficulties, missing a portion of the beginning of the second period. But overall, from what I did see, both teams had good pace and looked very good. Will Butcher, who was seeing his first NHL action played well, even though he was booed each time he touched the puck by the scorned Buffalo faithful.

New Jersey was wearing their new white away jerseys. I figured they would look better once they were seen on ice, but that was not really the case. We will see how the red home jerseys look on-ice when the Devils get a chance to wear them.

The Devils looked good throughout most of the first period, dictating the pace and really impressing on the power play. The coaching staff wants a good puck possession team and they were doing a fine job of that early on.

However, the Sabres took over the play in the late second period and did not really let up, save for a few pockets here and there, for the rest of the game. The Devils were able to push play in the early to mid third period and, behind 3-2, nearly tied things a few times with some scrambles in front of the Buffalo net. They would eventually tie the game at three to send it to the four-on-four OT period where the Devils won it.

I appologize for a lack of specifics. The stream was set up so that it was the team’s film feed. There was no commentary or graphics. I was able to keep track of the score and could see the game clock at one end of the rink, but could not hear the public address announcer to get who scored and when.

But the Devils did look good coming out of this one and their next game in this mini tournament comes tomorrow afternoon at 3:30 PM against the Penguins.

Devils Set Roster for Prospects Challenge

Once again this year, the Devils will be participating in the Prospects Challenge, a round-robin mini tournament featuring young players from the Buffalo Sabres, Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins in addition to the Devils. The Challenge takes place from September 8 to 11 at HarborCenter in Buffalo.

The Devils put out a press release today setting their roster for the tournament and it is a nice lineup. Goaltenders include Ken Appleby, Evan Cormier and Mackenzie Blackwood. The team will send ten defensemen: newly signed NCAA talent Will Butcher, Michael Kapla, Steven Santini, Joshua Jacobs, Yaroslav Dyblenko, Jacob MacDonald, Colton White, Colby Sissons, Jocktan Chainey and Nicolas Guay. Forwards will feature number one overall draft pick Nico Hischier, Nick Lappin, Michael McLeod, Nathan Bastian, Blake Speers, John Quenneville, Brandon Gignac, Brandon Baddock, Ryan Kujawinski, Jan Mandat, Austin Cangelosi, Nikita Popugaev, Jesper Bratt and Marian Studenic.

The press release also included the Devils’ schedule which will see them take on the Sabres on September 8 at 7 PM, the Penguins on Saturday, September 9 at 3:30 PM and the Bruins on Monday, September 11 at 12 noon.

This event is open to the public at HarborCenter in Buffalo and tickets are available at the Sabres’ website. If you are a Devils fan in the area, you might want to check it out to see some of the young talent the Devils will be icing for the coming season and beyond.

Devils Beat Buffalo 2-1 Going into Bye Week

Tomorrow kicks off the Devils five day bye week, as each team gets one as per the latest collective bargaining agreement between the NHL and NHLPA. To paraphrase Taylor Hall, other teams will be winning and accumulating points while the Devils are off, they needed this game tonight.

And they got it, winning 2-1 at Prudential Center over the Buffalo Sabres – their first win on home ice since January 2 against the Bruins.

The Devils’ lineup was once again largely the same, with Karl Stollery in for Kyle Quincey (who is out with an upper body injury) and Devante Smith-Pelly the healthy scratch for the evening. Buffalo was missing Zach Bogosian, William Carrier and Taylor Fedun. Who they were not without tonight was Jack Eichel. The second year superstar missed the first two meetings that the Devils had with the Sabres (both New Jersey wins). The Devils were going for, and got, the season series sweep tonight.

The goaltending matchup featured Robin Lehner for Buffalo, who made 37 saves on 39 Devils shots and a very happy Cory Schneider (the Marblehead, Massachusetts native is a big New England Patriots fan) who made 22 saves on 23 Sabres shots. In a bit of strange trivia, the last time the Devils played after the Pats won the Super Bowl was February 3, 2015 when they faced Ottawa. The score and outcome of that game? The Devils won 2-1. The goaltending matchup? Schneider versus Lehner – who was then playing for the Senators.

Things got off to a chippy start when Joseph Blandisi hit the Sabres’ Tyler Ennis, with what was a clean hit, Nicolas Deslauriers took exception and he and Blandisi dropped the gloves. It was Blandisi’s first NHL fight and, although he did not get the (unofficial) decision, he handled himself well against the bigger and more experienced Deslauriers.

The Devils spent a good portion of the first period in the Buffalo zone, keeping offensive pressure. At one point in the first, for eight minutes, the Sabres did not have a shot on net. Although the Devils had a lot of zone time in the first, they had nothing to show for it on the big board, as they finished the period tied 0-0.

The second period began with a good scoring chance by the Devils when Eichel was able to box out Taylor Hall when Hall had an empty side of the Buffalo net to shoot on. Following that, Jacob Josefson took a nasty hit from Jake McCabe that put him into the stanchion in the glass right near the Devils bench. He would go off and down the tunnel, as it looked pretty bad when his head hit the metal, but he did return later in the second period.

New Jersey finally broke through in the second at 8:46. It was set up when Evander Kane was called for roughing Karl Stollery, putting the Devils on the power play. Michael Cammalleri skated with the puck on the near half wall, giving to Adam Henrique (who is celebrating his 27th birthday today) on the side of the net. Henrique banked the puck off of the skate of Buffalo defenseman Cody Franson and it went in (a move Henrique insists was intentional).

Pavel Zacha had the secondary assist and just like that, the Devils had a 1-0 lead. That goal also gave Henrique the team lead in goals with 15. Henrique also has four goals in the last five games, the only game he has not had a goal was the Columbus game, where he had two assists. The Devils also had their first of two power play goals; the team went 2-for-4 on the power play for the evening while keeping the Sabres 0-for-1, as the Devils did a good job of staying out of the penalty box all night. Lehner would rob Blandisi late in the period with a nice save to keep it 1-0. Lehner had a pretty solid game in the loss.

At the 8:39 mark, Buffalo would tie things up when Tyler Ennis scored his third of the year. He got assists from Kyle Okposo and Justin Falk. The Sabres then nearly took the lead moments later when Marcus Foligno’s shot was tipped in front by Sam Reinhart and hit the post. But it did not go in and the game was still knotted at one.

The game winner was set up when Kane was called for high sticking Hall at the 11:52 mark of the third. On the ensuing power play, Damon Severson slid the puck to Cammalleri at the half wall. He shot and the puck came out to Zacha in front, who swatted at it and found the back of the net. The Sabres immediately challenged from the bench, alleging that Adam Henrique interfered with Lehner, as his stick hit Lehner’s glove, seemingly knocking the puck loose. The referees did not agree, saying that there was no goalie interference and it was a good goal. It was now 2-1 Devils, and that would prove the game winner. Evander Kane was in the box for both of the Devils goals this evening.

Lehner was pulled with about 1:50 left in the game, but Buffalo could not score, despite the Devils constantly icing the puck, not letting their tired defensemen get off of the ice. With repeated face offs in the defensive zone and a tired unit of players on the ice, things looked pretty bad for the Devils. But they got out of it, with Kyle Palmieri blocking one last Buffalo shot in the final seconds.

Now the Devils head into their mandatory five day bye week, where they cannot practice with each other for the five days. New Jersey will reconvene on late afternoon Saturday for a practice and then face the San Jose Sharks at Prudential Center in a 12:30 PM matinee on Sunday, February 12. Right now, with the Devils win and the Flyers loss to St. Louis, the Devils are only three points out of a playoff spot. Did the bye week come at a bad time for the Devils, or will New Jersey pick up where they left off? We will find out the answer to that question on Sunday.

Devils Take Home-and-Home Series from Sabres with 4-2 win at The Rock

After their electrifying win last night, which saw Andy Greene score his third overtime goal, 11th game winning goal and first penalty shot goal, the Devils returned home from Buffalo having taken points in 10 of their first 13 games. They have won their last three games and a win tonight would give them their first four game winning streak since January of 2016. They were also looking to sweep both ends of a home-and-home series from the Sabres. They would accomplish just that with a 4-2 win at Prudential Center tonight.

Lineup news as Michael Cammalleri was still out with what is being called a “personal matter.” The team is not sure if he will be out long or short term. Devante Smith-Pelly once again took his spot in the lineup. Also scratched for New Jersey was Reid Boucher.

For Buffalo, they continue to look like the walking wounded. They lost Ryan O’Reilly to injury in the second period of last night’s game and he did not play tonight. Sam Reinhart took his spot on the active roster. Also sitting out for the Sabres was Zach Bogosian and Dmitry Kulikov.

With the backups going last night, tonight saw a more premier matchup between the number one goalies for both teams. Cory Schneider was up for the Devils, making 21 saves on 23 Buffalo shots. Between the pipes for the Sabres was Robin Lehner. He made 23 saves and faced a total of 27 Devils shots.

The Devils did Military Appreciation Night tonight, with more than 300 active and retired military in attendance at the Prudential Center. Tonight also saw the debut of Kyle Palmieri’s “Squad21” initiative. The Devils warmed up in their camo jerseys as well, which are now being auctioned off for charity at NewJerseyDevils.com.

Kyle Quincey got the scoring off, netting his first goal as a Devil at 4:01 of the first period. It came when Damon Severson retrieved the puck out of the near corner in the Sabres zone and passed it to Quincey. He fired it on net, beating Lehner to give the Devils a quick 1-0 lead. Adam Henrique had the other assist on the goal. With that goal, the last three Devils goals to that point had come from defensemen (Yohann Auvitu, Andy Greene and Quincey).

Things would stay 1-0 until early in the second when Marcus Foligno netted his third goal of the season at 3:41 of the middle frame. Former Devil Brian Gionta had the lone assist. The already depleted Sabres had an injury scare in the first period, as Derek Grant had gone off, seemingly injured – the Sabres losing another centerman – but he returned in the second period.

The Devils would not be so lucky with Sergey Kalinin. He blocked a shot off of his foot in the third period and did not return for the end of the period.

The game remained tied until 6:11 of the second period, when Nick Lappin notched his second career NHL goal to give the Devils the lead again. Taylor Hall broke in on the forecheck, grabbing the puck and sending a beautiful saucer pass across to Lappin, who was cutting in behind the defense. He made a pinpoint shot to beat Lehner and make it 2-1 Devils.

Before the second period was out, the Devils would have a 3-1 lead. At 11:17 of that period, Damon Severson skated the puck up the left wing, with Adam Henrique going to the net as a screen. Severson gave the puck to Kyle Palmieri along the right side and he fired, scoring to give the Devils the two goal cushion. Andy Greene had the other assist, giving him a two game point-scoring streak. This was, of course, a special goal for Palmieri. Not only was “Squad21” in attendance along with the hundreds of other military folks, but it also broke his personal goal drought.

But it was not without some degree of controversy. Buffalo coach Dan Bylsma decided to use his coach’s challenge to see if Palmieri entered the zone before the puck carrier, Severson, making him offside. The linesmen reviewed the replay, which showed he was not. The call on the ice stood and it was a good goal.

In the third period, the Devils added another insurance goal at 6:32 when Taylor Hall gave the puck to Henrique in the neutral zone. Henrique skated up the right wing boards, feeding John Moore with a nice pass that he used to slide the puck through Lehner’s five hole. This goal came four-on-four as Evander Kane of Buffalo had gone off for hooking and Severson of the Devils was off for cross-checking. The Devils would soon go on the power play when Nicholas Baptiste was called for tripping PA Parenteau right after the Moore goal.

Overall, it was another lackluster night for the Devils with the man advantage; they went 0-for-5 on the power play while the Sabres, the ninth ranked power play as a team in the NHL coming into tonight, went 0-for-1.

Buffalo would make things a little bit more interesting when Matt Moulson scored his first even strength goal of the year (his five others were power play goals) with assists to Grant and Cody Franson. That made it 4-2 Devils, which was the final score. The Devils ended the game on the power play when Foligno was called for high-sticking Ben Lovejoy at 18:08 of the third.

Power play weakness aside, it was a good night for the Devils overall. A few New Jersey players had multi-point nights: Severson had two assists; Hall had two assists, as did Henrique. They had a better second period, an issue that has plagued them this year so far. But they are on a roll.

And they will need to continue to stay on a roll. Next up is a western road trip that will take them to Dallas on Tuesday to play the Stars, Anaheim on Thursday, Los Angeles on Saturday and San Jose a week from this coming Monday.

A western swing is always difficult for any team, the Devils being no exception. New Jersey will likely try to use this Texas and California road trip as a building block in trying to remain competitive.