With six wins in seven games - their latest victory coming against the league’s hottest team - the New Jersey Devils should be thrilled with their recent play.
A pair of injuries, however, may have tempered their enthusiasm some.
Since opening the season with consecutive losses, New Jersey (6-3-0) has won six of seven, including an impressive 4-1 victory at Pittsburgh on Saturday that snapped the Penguins’ seven-game winning streak. Nicklas Bergfors(notes), Travis Zajac(notes) and Zach Parise(notes) each had a goal and an assist and Martin Brodeur(notes) carried a shutout into the third period.
“I think that we played a really good, tight game,” Devils coach Jacques Lemaire said after his team improved to 5-0 on the road for the first time in team history. “We didn’t give them much.”
The victory came at a high cost, however, as Martin - the team leader in ice time - sustained a broken left arm that will sideline the versatile defenseman four to six weeks.
Also absent from Wednesday’s lineup will be Pandolfo, who will miss four to six weeks with a shoulder injury. The left wing is one of the team’s top defensive forwards and a key penalty killer.
“There’s no question what they bring to the lineup,” general manager Lou Lamoriello said. “Paul, certainly, what he brings to defense, and Jay, what he brings to penalty killing and leadership and 5-on-5 defensive situations.
“But you just cannot put it as anything other than, it’s a part of the game. When these things transpire, other people get opportunities.”
Without Martin, Pandolfo and Patrik Elias(notes), who has yet to make his season debut due to a groin injury, Brodeur will face added pressure. The 17-year veteran and all-time wins leader seems to be up to the task, allowing two goals or fewer in five of his last six starts. Brodeur’s next shutout will be the 103rd of his career, tying Terry Sawchuk’s NHL record.
Parise appears ready to duplicate his stellar 2008-09 season, when he set career highs with 45 goals, 49 assists and 94 points. He has five goals and three assists during a four-game point streak and leads New Jersey with six goals, six assists and 12 points.
While perfect on the road, the Devils have lost three of four at the Prudential Center.
“I think it’s the small details to the game that we’re sharper with on the road, for some reason,” defenseman Mike Mottau(notes) told the Devils’ official Web site. “That’s just something that guys right through the lineup need to focus on, and play a road-type of game at home.”
Out of the playoffs the past two seasons, Buffalo (6-1-1) has been among the league’s best teams the first month. The Sabres have won all three of their road games, rallying for a 3-2 shootout victory at Tampa Bay on Saturday.
Rookie defenseman Tyler Myers(notes) scored in the sixth round of the tiebreaker and Ryan Miller(notes) was outstanding again with 24 saves. Miller improved to 6-0-1 and leads the league with a 1.69 goals-against average and .940 save percentage.
The Sabres haven’t opened 4-0-0 on the road since they started the 2006-07 season with 10 consecutive wins away from home.
These teams split four meetings last season, each winning twice on the road.