Devils bid to regain form in afternoon tilt vs. Sabres

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The New Jersey Devils have hit a bit of a rough patch following a solid start to the season.

The Buffalo Sabres, meanwhile, are starting to consistently give themselves an opportunity to win games.

Looking to avoid a third straight defeat, the visiting Devils will try to keep the Sabres from extending their point streak to five games on Saturday afternoon.

New Jersey opened the season with a 3-1-1 record before sustaining back-to-back home losses to the Philadelphia Flyers this week. After falling 5-3 on Tuesday, the Devils went 0-for-4 on the power play during Thursday's 3-1 loss to the Flyers.

It marked the fifth time already this season that New Jersey was held to two or fewer goals. The Devils also are a paltry 2-for-18 on the power play through their first seven games.

"We need to be a little more focused on our shots and get some bodies in front of (the net)," said forward Jesper Bratt, who made his season debut Thursday after being in COVID-19 protocol.

"I think we can do a lot better job of taking the goalie's eyes away, getting some traffic in front of them. That usually leads to second opportunities."

First-year Devils coach -- and longtime Buffalo boss -- Lindy Ruff offered a simpler approach to potentially cure his team's early offensive ills.

"The message is really just stick with it," Ruff said.

Buffalo has stuck with its own process and enjoyed some modest success of late. The Sabres have answered a 1-3-0 start to the season by posting a 2-0-2 mark over their past four games. However, they will try to bounce back from Thursday's 3-2 overtime home defeat to the New York Rangers.

"That's about as bad as we've played this year," captain Jack Eichel told the Sabres' official website after his team was outshot 39-25 on Thursday. "We (found) a way to get a point. ... But, we've got to find a way to play a lot better."

After going the first six games without a goal, Eichel has two in as many contests. He also has a goal and two assists in each of his past two games against New Jersey.

Taylor Hall has just one point in five games after recording a goal and five assists in the first three. This will be Hall's first game against the Devils since they traded him to the Arizona Coyotes on Dec. 16, 2019. Hall recorded 208 points (76 goals, 132 assists) and won the 2017-18 Hart Trophy while playing 211 games with New Jersey.

Buffalo's Linus Ullmark has a 2.61 goals-against average while starting the past four games. Ullmark is 1-3-0 with a 2.31 GAA against the Devils, but it's uncertain if he will start both games versus New Jersey on Saturday and Sunday. Carter Hutton (1-2-0, 2.65 GAA) is also back with the team after suffering a head injury against Philadelphia on Jan. 19.

With New Jersey netminder Mackenzie Blackwood (2-0-1, 1.90 GAA) still in COVID-19 protocol at the moment, Scott Wedgewood (1-3-0, 2.81 GAA) could make a fifth straight start.

Jack Hughes leads New Jersey with seven points, but has just one over the past four games.

Bratt, meanwhile, has posted at least 32 points in each of his first three NHL seasons, but just a goal with an assist in his last six versus Buffalo.

--Field Level Media

OddsMoney LinePoint SpreadTotal Points
New Jersey
-112-1.5O 6
Buffalo
-106+1.5U 6