Devils, Sabres set to meet for first time
DEVILS (8-7-1) at SABRES (11-6-0)
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New Jersey 5-5-0; Buffalo 6-4-0.
First of four meetings. Last season, Martin Brodeur
outdueled Ryan Miller and Ilya Kovalchuk
scored in overtime to give the Devils a 1-0 win in the initial matchup, but the Sabres followed by taking the next three. Thomas Vanek led them with 3 goals and Miller had a shutout of his own in the most recent game.
A concussion suffered last Saturday on a collision with Milan Lucic of the Bruins has Miller on the shelf, but what would appear at first glance to be a damaging blow may turn out to be anything but for the Sabres. That's because Jhonas Enroth has been playing better than Miller and just about any other goalie out there right now. Enroth, who didn't ascend to Miller's full-time backup until late last season, is now 6-0-0 in 2011-12 and 13-0-1 in his last 14 decisions. He hasn't lost in regulation since Nov. 24, 2010, a 1-0 setback against the Penguins.
Playing the defending Stanley Cup champions in the front end of a back-to-back, New Jersey rallied from a pair of third-period deficits on Tuesday to tie Boston. But the Bruins had the better of play throughout the third and finally went in front to stay when Benoit Pouliot scored with 3:01 remaining, dealing the Devils a 4-3 defeat. Ilya Kovalchuk
attempted to convince coach Peter DeBoer to play him after taking part in both the morning and pre-game skates, but remained out of the lineup for a fifth straight game with a groin injury. He could play Wednesday.
"We got away from our game plan," DeBoer said. "They took us off our game plan a little bit and we didn't respond the right way. We didn't win enough faceoffs, we didn't do enough of the little things at the end to win games -- that's what good teams do."
Better late than never was the story behind how Buffalo escaped Montreal with two points on Monday and leapfrogged Toronto into first place in the Northeast Division in the process. The Sabres trailed 2-0 heading into the third period, but Jason Pominville got them on the board 53 seconds in and Derek Roy drew them even with 7:30 remaining. The game went to a shootout, and goals by Vanek and Brad Boyes trumped one by Max Pacioretty of the Canadiens, as the Sabres claimed a 3-2 victory.
"It makes my job easier when you have Vanek and Boyes and guys like that as the shooters," said Enroth, who made 25 saves during the game. "They're pretty much 100 percent."
Who's Hot: Nick Palmieri
had his first career 2-goal game Wednesday, bringing the Devils into 2-2 and 3-3 ties with the Bruins. … In addition to Enroth's sizzling play in net (1.76 goals-against average, .942 save percentage), Roy has overcome a slow start to post 5 goals in as many games and 10 points over the Sabres' last six games. Vanek (3-3-6) and Pominville (2-4-6) have four-game points streaks active.
As Kovalchuk nears his return to the lineup, New Jersey remains without forwards Eric Boulton
(hand), Jacob Josefson
(collarbone) and Travis Zajac
(Achilles). … Miller and forward Tyler Ennis (ankle) are out indefinitely for Buffalo, which also has forward Jochen Hecht (concussion) on injured reserve.
The Devils scored only six goals in last season's series, three by players still with the club (Kovalchuk, David Clarkson
and Zach Parise
). … Defenseman Mike Weber took the place of Tyler Myers in the Sabres lineup Monday and recorded six hits while logging 22:14 of ice time.
Clarkson scored New Jersey's first power-play goal in six games and only its sixth of the season when he converted a 5-on-3 to open the scoring against Boston.
"Yeah, it was nice to get one. It was a 5-on-3. We'll take any power play goals we can get right now to try and get that on track," DeBoer said. "It was nice to get one at a key time at that point in the game."