New Jersey Devils Game 31 Preview: at Buffalo Sabres

NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 19: New Jersey Devils defenseman Dougie Hamilton (7) during the second period of the National Hockey League game between the New Jersey Devils and the Pittsburgh Penguins on December 19, 2021 at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The New Jersey Devils return to action against the Buffalo Sabres for their first game in ten days.

Tale of the Tape

Record: 10-15-5 (25 points, 7th in Metro)

The Opponent: Buffalo Sabres (10-15-5)

FHN Site: The Blue & Gold

Puckdrop: 7:00 PM ET

Venue: KeyBank Arena

Expected Goaltenders: Mackenzie Blackwood (5-6-3) vs. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (2-2-1)

Television Broadcasts: MSG+2, MSG-B

Buffalo Sabres

The Sabres have not played a game since December 17. In that game, Buffalo suffered a 3-2 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. A late goal by Rasmus Dahlin forced overtime and extended the team’s point streak to four games.

Goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen will get the start tonight for the Sabres. The 22-year-old is making his sixth start of the season and carries a 2-2-1 record into tonight’s contest. Although the sample size is small, Luukkonen’s numbers have been stellar as he possesses a 1.96 GAA and .939 save percentage this year.

New Jersey Devils

The long break for New Jersey has given them the opportunity to hit the reset button on the season. Currently in the midst of a six-game losing streak, the Devils have not played well for the better part of the last month.

Like Buffalo, New Jersey’s last game was a loss against the Penguins on December 19. The Devils had trouble generating any kind of sustained offense which has plagued them since mid-November. Goaltender John Gillies did all he could as New Jersey dropped the game 3-2.

The extended Christmas break has given New Jersey a chance to reflect on the last month. With only one win their last 11 games, general manager Tom Fitzgerald believes the answers are in the locker room.

New Jersey will be getting some help tonight as Nico Hischier, Ryan Graves, P.K. Subban, Jesper Boqvist, and Christian Jaros are out of the NHL’s Covid-19 protocol. The Devils are also expected to turn to Mackenzie Blackwood in net.

Blackwood missed the last two contests with a neck injury but is good to go tonight with no limitations according to Lindy Ruff. The 25-year-old goaltender is 5-6-3 this season with a 3.14 GAA and .902 save percentage as well as two shutouts.

Player to Watch: Nico Hischier

Hischier will return to the lineup tonight for the first time since December 10. New Jersey’s captain will return to his shutdown center role as well as provide a boost offensively for a struggling Devils team.

If the answer is in the locker room then Hischier needs to be spearheading the movement as the Devils look to turn their season around. Look for him to return to his prominent role on special teams against Buffalo.

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