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Sabres travel to New Jersey, desperately seeking a win

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Losers of four straight, Buffalo needs to find a way back into the win column this afternoon against the Devils

New Jersey Devils v Buffalo Sabres Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images

Game 14

Buffalo Sabres (4-7-2) vs. New Jersey Devils (6-3-2)

Puck Drop: 12:30 PM EST | Prudential Center | Newark, NJ

TV: MSG

Radio: WGR 550

SB Nation Devils Blog: All About The Jersey

Know Your Opponent

New Jersey Devils

Record: (6-3-2)

Division Ranking: 6th in East Division

PP: 26th (12.5%)

PK: 31st (64.9%)

What to Watch

1. Special Teams

The Buffalo Sabres have a rather rare opportunity here. Obviously, their play at five-on-five has left a lot to be desired this season. In fact, it’s been ten whole periods since they have registered an even-strength tally.

Despite the Devils’ reputation as a defensively sound team, they’re actually allowing a lot of chances at five-on-five this season. Their expected goals-against rate of 2.45 is currently fifth-highest in the league.

Additionally, the Devils have the league’s least effective penalty-kill unit right now. Conversely, the Sabres’ special teams groups, particularly the power-play, have been quite good. As it stands, Buffalo has the fifth-best power-play unit in the NHL, converting at a 31.1-percent clip.

Perhaps this is the game where the Sabres’ forwards finally break through offensively.

2. Cozens’ Return

After being one of the last players to return to the ice after the team’s recent COVID-19 outbreak, rookie forward Dylan Cozens is expected to make his return to the starting lineup. At practice yesterday, he skated alongside Eric Staal and Taylor Hall on the second-line.

Obviously, the 20-year-old’s re-introduction to the lineup represents a depth improvement on the wing. It is expected that he will sub-in for Tage Thompson, who has struggled mightily so far this season.

3. Ullmark Will Have His Hands Full

Though it has yet to be confirmed who will start between the pipes for Buffalo this afternoon, Carter Hutton just got a start on Thursday evening, and failed to impress. Presumably, that should mean Linus Ullmark will reassume the cage today.

Despite the Devils’ struggles defensively, they’ve surprisingly been one of the better offensive clubs in the NHL this season at even-strength. Their current xGF/60 rate of 2.65 ranks third in the league, and first in the East Division.

Fortunately, Ullmark probably had his best game of the season (which obviously isn’t setting the bar very high) the last time he squared-off against New Jersey on January 30. In that game he stopped 34 of the 37 shots he faced in a shootout victory.

Projected Lineup

Buffalo Sabres

Forwards

Victor Olofsson - Jack Eichel - Sam Reinhart

Taylor Hall - Eric Staal - Dylan Cozens

Tobias Rieder- Cody Eakin - Kyle Okposo

Jeff Skinner - Curtis Lazar - Riley Sheahan

Defense

Rasmus Dahlin - Colin Miller

Brandon Montour - Henri Jokiharju

Jake McCabe - William Borgen

Projected Starter: Linus Ullmark

New Jersey Devils

Forwards

Andreas Johnsson - Jack Hughes - Kyle Palmieri

Yegor Sharangovich - Mikhail Maltsev - Jesper Bratt

Janne Kuokkanen - Pavel Zacha - Nick Merkley

Miles Wood - Michael McLeod - Nathan Bastian

Defense

Ty Smith - Damon Severson

Will Butcher - P.K. Subban

Dmitry Kulikov - Sami Vatanen

Projected Starter: Mackenzie Blackwood