The NHL is set up with a great day of hockey throughout February 20. Twelve games are up on the board throughout Saturday. One of these games will be between the Buffalo Sabres and the New Jersey Devils. These two teams will look to grab a big win in this one after returning from a COVID-19 related absence. This game will drop the puck at around 12:30 PM Eastern time.
The Sabres have started out this season with a record of 4-7-2, which has them sitting in last place of the East Division. Buffalo has lost four games in a row, including three straight since returning from two weeks off. The Sabres will look to move up in the standings with a much needed win in this one. I expect Buffalo to come out hot on Saturday afternoon.
New Jersey has put up a record of 6-3-2 to this point in the season, which has them sitting in sixth place of the East Division. The Devils have won three games in a row, two of them being since their return from a two week absence. New Jersey will look to keep up this hot streak as they try to jump up the standings in the East.
These two teams are sitting outside of the playoff picture to this point in the season, but the Devils have put up a winning record so far. New Jersey has had the better team overall this season, but Buffalo will look to come out strong in this one. I expect the Sabres to try and set the pace early on offense after scoring only two goals in their last three games.
The Sabres and the Devils met up twice so far this season. Buffalo hosted the first game of the season on January 30. Andreas Johnsson, Ty Smith and Janne Kuokkanen all scored for New Jersey, but it was not enough. Taylor Hall had two assists, while Victor Olofsson, Tobias Rieder and Eric Staal all scored. Jack Eichel earned the lone goal in the shootout to lift the Sabres to a 4-3 win.
The second game of the season series stayed in Buffalo on January 31. Rasmus Ristolainen had a goal and an assist, while Jack Eichel and Victor Olofsson both had two assists. Miles Wood had two goals and an assist on the night. Michael McLeod had two goals as well to help lift New Jersey to the win. Eric Comrie stopped 30 of 33 shots as the Devils earned a 5-3 win.
Buffalo was able to win both games in last season’s series against the Devils by a combined score of 14-3. New Jersey was able to split the first series between these two teams, earning three points in the two games. The Sabres will look to do better in this one as they try to knock off the Devils on Saturday. If Buffalo can play a bit better defensively, they should be able to grab a win in this one.
The Sabres have been dangerous on their power play so far this season, while their penalty kill has been solid. Buffalo has capitalized on 14 of their 45 power play opportunities, which is a 31.1 percent power play. The Sabres have given up 6 goals on their opponents 28 power play chances, which is a 78.6 percent kill rate.
New Jersey’s special teams have not been good at all throughout the early part of this season. The Devils have scored 4 power play goals on 32 power play attempts, which is a 12.5 percent success rate. New Jersey has killed off 24 of the 37 penalties against them, which is a 64.9 percent penalty kill. The Devils will need to turn this around if they want to keep up their success.
Buffalo has a clear edge in this one on special teams. The Sabres will look to use it to their advantage on Saturday afternoon. Buffalo went 3-9 on the power play in the first two game series this season, while the Devils went 1-8. The Sabres will look to repeat that success entering this game. New Jersey needs to step up on special teams though if they want to move up the standings.
Linus Ullmark will likely get the nod in the crease for the Sabres in this one. Ullmark has started in 8 games this season, going 3-3-2 in his starts. He has posted a .907 save percentage and a GAA of 2.69 in his games played. Ullmark’s last start was against the Washington Capitals, where he stopped 18 of 21 shots in the losing effort.
I expect Mackenzie Blackwood to get the start in the net for New Jersey on Saturday. Blackwood has earned a record of 4-0-1 throughout his 5 starts this season. He has put up a save percentage of .945 and a 1.94 GAA so far this season. Blackwood finished with 25 saves on 27 shots in his last start against the Boston Bruins.
These two goalies have put up solid numbers to start this season. Blackwood has played a huge role in New Jersey’s early season success and will look to keep it up. Ullmark is coming off a tough performance against Washington and will look to bounce back in this one. If Buffalo’s offense can test Blackwood early in this one, they might be able to break through for the win.
The Sabres are coming into this one on a tough losing streak, while New Jersey has strung together three straight wins. I expect these two streaks to end on Saturday afternoon. Buffalo has a big edge on special teams, which could help them grab the win. The Devils will look for Blackwood to put up another strong performance though in this one.
BetOnline has New Jersey listed as a -125 against the money line in this one. This implies that the Devils will win this game around 55.6 percent of the time. I think that this line is right with how New Jersey has been playing as of late. I think that the Sabres will play with a chip on their shoulder though after the Devils gave them the COVID-19 issues.