2021 Prospects Challenge: Devils Fall to Sabres 3-0

The Devils began the final segment of rookie camp tonight when they traveled up to Western New York to participate in the Prospects Challenge hosted by the Buffalo Sabres. They fell in the opening game to those same hosts, 3-0 with the Sabres scoring one goal in each period.

The Devils only had one practice and the morning skate going into the tournament according to Catherine Bogart, one of the hosts (along with Chris Wescott) of the pregame, postgame and intermission reports. With this tournament starting later in the month of September due to COVID wreaking havoc on last season, those were all they could get prior to the game starting.

Kevin Dineen, new coach of the Utica Comets of the American Hockey League, was behind the bench tonight for the Devils with head coach of the big club Lindy Ruff and general manager Tom Fitzgerald watching from the stands.

Nico Daws got the nod in nets tonight for the Devils with Mareks Mitens backing him up. Daws played well, making a few big saves to keep the Devils in, and only giving up goals on a defensive breakdown, a turnover and an empty net resulting in the third goal.

Buffalo was the visiting team while the Devils slotted in as the home team for this contest.

Matt Loughlin and Chico Resch had the call on the main broadcast. On a related note, if you are planning on watching on Sunday, watch on the feed on YouTube. The Devils’ website feed was slower, unreliable and of poorer resolution. YouTube had the crisper, more stable feed.

The story for the Devils tonight was penalties. The officials (from the AHL) were calling everything and the Devils did not show a whole lot of discipline.

New Jersey was on the power play, coincidentally, just about four minutes into the game when things got a little bit dicey for Daws. On a Buffalo clear, he came out to cut the puck off from a Sabres forechecker and whiffed. The puck went past him and behind the net, luckily, but it could have gotten ugly.

The Sabres got on the board first on the power play at 6:02 of the first. Joe Masonius (a Spring Lake, New Jersey native who played last season in the Southern Professional Hockey League with the Macon Mayhem) was in the box for a hook.

On the ensuing man advantage, Oskari Laaksonen got a shot on net in close on Daws. The rebound came right out to Brett Murray, who chipped the puck over a prone Daws and into the net. That made it 1-0 Buffalo.

Late in the first, Nikita Okhotyuk took a roughing penalty, a double minor, on a strange play where the Sabres’ player punched the referee in the face twice, albeit accidentally, and Okhotyuk received the penalty. The Devils killed that penalty, as they would the rest of the night. The Sabres were 1-for-4 on the power play while the Devils were 0-for-4.

The Buffalo power play worked at a 25-percent clip while the Devils’ penalty kill was 75-percent.

Okhotyuk would be a target throughout the night for the Sabres and with good reason. He played a very physical game.

The Devils played a good first period, really pushing the pace and keeping the puck largely in the Buffalo zone, but somehow only mustered four shots in the opening frame.

In the second period, the Sabres doubled their lead when JJ Peterka scored at even strength from Murray – who notched his second point of the night.

The goal materialized when Reilly Walsh turned over the puck inside the Devils’ blueline and Murray was in on a 2-on-1 odd man rush with Peterka. Peterka took the pass as the trailer and buried a pass backdoor, which gave Buffalo the 2-0 lead.

Buffalo had now scored two goals two different ways (on the power play and at even strength) the team hat trick would be completed in the third.

Daws was pulled with about two minutes to go in the game for the extra attacker. With 1:29 left in the game, Murray of the Sabres would take a high-sticking call, putting the Devils on the power play.

The Devils elected to keep Daws out of the crease for the extra skater and the Sabres’ Peter Tischke cleared the puck into the empty cage with less than one minute to go (52 exactly).

With that, the Sabres had scored a power play goal, an even strength goal and a shorthanded/empty net goal, giving us our final of 3-0.

And that was it. Stats were kind of limited for this game, so I do not have much else to work with. Also, I apologize if this recap was poorly written. I, too, am in preseason form. We will work out the kinks (hopefully) by the time the preseason wraps up and the Devils open the season against Chicago.

The Devils play next on Sunday. That game is part of this Prospects Challenge and is against the Boston Bruins. See you then!

Devils Knock Off Sabres in Buffalo

The Devils could have been reeling following the news of last night’s trade that sent Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac to the New York Islanders.

Instead, the young guns stepped up, just the way General Manager Tom Fitzgerald and coach Lindy Ruff wanted them to. They defeated the Buffalo Sabres 6-3 in Western New York.

Speaking of that trade, I did not mention in the trade recap last night that the conditions on the 2022 fourth round pick. It moves to a third-round pick should the Isles make the Stanley Cup Final. Zajac was a Devils for 15 years and Palmieri led the Devils in scoring in the time he was in New Jersey with 140 tallies.

With both Palmieri and Zajac gone, PK Subban and Miles Wood each had an “A” on their chest.

Now back to the game. This was the final game of the series between New Jersey and Buffalo this season. With the Devils’ win, the two teams split the season series with four wins each.

Some good news on the Nico Hischier front as the captain skated with the team at practice yesterday and took the morning skate earlier today. He did make the trip up to Buffalo but did not play. He could possibly be back as soon as tomorrow according to MSG Network’s Erika Wachter.

While we were talking about trades, the NHL trade deadline is Monday at 3 PM and Taylor Hall was again a healthy scratch for the Sabres, so his days in Western New York (short as they were) seem to be numbered.

The Devils scratched Will Butcher and Scott Wedgewood.

In goal, the Devils thew kind of curveball when they started Aaron Dell. Dell stopped 24 on 27 Buffalo shots for an .889 save percentage in his first start at the NHL level since March 2. He stopped 20-of-22 at even strength and was 4-for-5 on power play shots as the Sabres went 1-for-3 on the man advantage.

In goal for the Sabres was Linus Ullmark, who turned aside 32 of 27 Devils shots for an .865 save percentage. He stopped 24-of-27 at even strength, was 5-for-7 on the power play as the Devils went 2-for-4 as a team and stopped all three Devils shorthanded shots.

With Dell’s win, this became the first season since 1991-92 for the Devils that four different goalies recorded at least a win.

Victor Olofsson got the scoring started 53 seconds into the game when Henri Jokiharju went wide in the Devils’ zone and passed to Olofsson cutting throught the middle. There was some missed coverage and some miscommunication on the Devils’ defense that led to the goal. Kyle Okposo had the secondary assist.

From then, from the 2:06 mark to the 3:47 mark of the first it essentially became the “Pavel Zacha Power Play Show.”

His first came when Ty Smith, on the power play, shot from the point after taking a feed from Jesper Bratt. Smith’s initial shot was saved by Ullmark, but the rebound was collected by Zacha in front and he put it in to tied the game at one.

For his next feat, also on the power play, Bratt, from the half wall, again got it to Smith at the point. Smith then dished to Zacha at the top of the near faceoff circle. He shot and beat Ullmark again to give the Devils the 2-1 lead.

The Devils took a 3-1 lead at 16:04 when Janne Kuokkanen fore checked hard and created a turnover in the far corner. He centered to Jack Hughes and he whiffed on the initial shot but got he puck on end on his second try and roofed it over Ullmark to make it 3-1 Devils. Yegor Sharangovich had the secondary assist.

In the second, Buffalo would fight back to tie.

It began with Tage Thompson at 11:56 of the second period. Colin Miller played tic-tac-toe to Brandon Montour and he shot. Dell made the save with his left pad initially, but he kicked it out to Thompson who put the rebound in to make ti 3-2 Devils.

Then, at 18:21, Jeff Skinner tied things. Rasmus Dahlin and Sam Reinhart went D-to-D. Reinhart took a shot that was saved with the rebound coming right to Skinner. Skinner put the rebound in to make it 3-3.

In the third, the Devils retook the lead for the victory.

It started 8:45 in to the new frame. Michael McLeod forced a turnover behind the Sabres’ cage. He centered to Boqvist in the slot. Boqvist shot and Ullmark made the first save, but Boqvist put his own rebound in to give the Devils back the lead at 4-3.

At 18:17, Sharangovich added an insurance goal when Kuokkanen stole the puck in the far corner from Riley Sheahan. He passed to Hughes, who made a no-look pass to Sharangovich who absolutely ripped a shot by Ullmark to make it 5-3.

Kuokannen would add an empty netter at 19:28 with Ullmark pulled for the extra attacker. Sharangovich and Hughes had the assists to ice the Devils’ 6-3 victory.

In the end, five Devils had a multi-point night with Hughes and Sharangovich notching three points each.

The Devils outshot the Sabres, 38-17, won 52-percent of the faceoffs, were outhit 13-9, had less blocked shots (11-6) and one more giveaways at two to Buffalo’s one.

Damon Severson led the team in ice time with 22:19 with Hughes leading the forwards with 19:44.

Zacha led in shots on goal with six. Hits were led by Andreas Johnsson, Severson and Dmitry Kulikov with two each.  Kulikov also led in blocks with three. Johnsson’s lone takeaways led in that category.

Next up, tomorrow back at the Rock. The Devils will face the Pittsburgh Penguins. Puck drop for that second half of the back-to-back is 7 PM.

And before we go, congratulations to Jeremy Brodeur. Marty’s son made his American Hockey League debut last night with the Binghamton Devils versus the Hershey Bears. He took a 3-2 overtime loss but made 47 saves in the game.

Until tomorrow, stay safe everyone!