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Sabres kick off three-game homestand against Devils

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Buffalo hosts New Jersey hoping to capitalize on Tuesday’s win

Buffalo Sabres v New Jersey Devils Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Game 17

Buffalo Sabres (6-8-2) vs. New Jersey Devils (6-6-2)

Puck Drop: 7:00 PM EST | KeyBank Center | Buffalo, NY

TV: MSG

Radio: WGR 550

SB Nation Devils Blog: All About The Jersey

Know Your Opponent

New Jersey Devils

Record: (6-6-2) | 14 PTS

Division Ranking: 7th in East Division

PP: 25th (15.0%)

PK: 31st (59.1%)

1. Potential Lineup Changes

As we all know, Jeff Skinner has been a healthy scratch for each of the last two games. Head coach Ralph Krueger has generally not been revealing his lineups ahead of time, but Skinner didn’t skate at the team’s practice on Thursday morning, which is.... odd, to say the least. It was later revealed that Skinner skated earlier in the morning... with the taxi squad. That means he’ll once again be a healthy scratch. What are we doing here?

Jack Eichel was also not on the ice for Thursday’s practice, but that could be an indicator of rest more than anything, and may not have any bearing on his status for this evening. Linus Ullmark, who played both Monday and Tuesday, was also not at practice.

One player who was on the ice? Rasmus Ristolainen, for his first skate since the beginning of the month. With the scary details of Ristolainen’s COVID-19 battle & aftermath recently coming out, this is a good sign for his health, if nothing else. While I wouldn’t expect to see him in a game anytime soon, it’s good to see him back on the ice.

2. Power Plays

The Sabres’ power play has been crushing it lately. Entering Thursday evening, the Sabres have the best power play in the league, tied with Chicago. They’ve capitalized on 33.3 percent of their advantages, which is great to see. Buffalo finished last season with an 18.9 percent rate on the power play.

Victor Olofsson has, of course, been a significant part of that. Six of his seven goals this season have come on the power play. All of this, combined with the fact that the Devils have the worst penalty kill in the league, could spell trouble for New Jersey once again.

3. More Scoring Needed

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the Sabres need more goals, period. As it stands right now, the Sabres are 28th in the league in goals-for, having scored just 39 this season. To a point, it’s understandable given that they had the COVID-related pause and have played fewer games than many other teams, but at some point, that stops being a valid excuse. Jeff Skinner can’t step up if he’s a healthy scratch, but there are plenty of other guys in the lineup who should.

Projected Lineups

Buffalo Sabres

Forwards

Victor Olofsson - Jack Eichel - Sam Reinhart

Taylor Hall - Eric Staal - Dylan Cozens

Rasmus Asplund - Cody Eakin - Kyle Okposo

Casey Mittelstadt - Curtis Lazar - Riley Sheahan

Defense

Rasmus Dahlin - Brandon Montour

Matt Irwin - Henri Jokiharju

Jacob Bryson - Colin Miller

Starter: Carter Hutton

New Jersey Devils

Forwards

Pavel Zacha - Nico Hischier - Jesper Bratt

Andreas Johnsson - Jack Hughes - Kyle Palmieri

Mikhail Maltsev - Travis Zajac - Nikita Gusev

Miles Wood - Michael McLeod - Nathan Bastian

Defense

Ryan Murray - P.K. Subban

Ty Smith - Damon Severson

Dmitry Kulikov - Sami Vatanen

Starter: Mackenzie Blackwood