NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Wednesday, December 28th (All times Eastern)
Buffalo Sabres (17-15-3) at New Jersey Devils (19-15-1), 7 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Buffalo Sabres will try to post consecutive victories for the first time in well over a month, as they visit the New Jersey Devils for tonight's battle at the Prudential Center.
Buffalo ended a three-game slide on Monday, posting a 4-2 home win over the Washington Capitals. The Sabres, who are 7-10-3 over their last 20 games, haven't recorded two victories in a row since a season-high four-game winning streak from Nov. 4-11.
The Sabres used an explosive four-goal first period to subdue the Capitals. Christian Ehrhoff, Jason Pominville, Matt Ellis and Brayden McNabb all lit the lamp at First Niagara Center, while Ryan Miller made 20 saves in the victory.
Buffalo took advantage of an early Washington miscue, as Capitals defenseman Roman Hamrlik was given a delay of game penalty for lifting the puck over the glass in the defensive zone just nine seconds into the contest. On the ensuing power play, Drew Stafford worked his way into the slot and dished to Pominville, who made no mistake, firing the puck past a fallen Michal Neuvirth from the left circle for a 1-0 lead just 51 seconds into the game.
"It changed the game," Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff said of Hamrlik's early blunder. "We capitalized on the early power play and did a nice job early on in the game."
Monday's home victory came after Buffalo went 0-3 on a three-game road trip. The Sabres, who are 8-6-0 on the road this year, are kicking off a two-game swing tonight and will also visit D.C. to face the Caps again on Friday.
Sabres winger Tyler Ennis has missed the last three games after re-injuring his left ankle. He missed 17 games earlier this season with the original injury and is questionable for tonight.
The Devils have lost two of their last three games and were dealt a 4-2 setback Monday at Carolina. The win featured a bizarre late-game sequence that ended with Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward being credited with his first career goal.
Carolina led 3-0 after two periods, but the Devils pulled within one in the third after goals by David Clarkson and Adam Henrique. However, Ward's unlikely goal with 30 seconds remaining sealed the win for the home team.
New Jersey goaltender Johan Hedberg allowed three goals on 33 shots in defeat. Hedberg was sent to the bench in the final minute, setting the stage for Hurricanes history.
Ilya Kovalchuk intended to pass from along the goal line back to Henrique near the left point, but the puck eluded a falling Henrique and slid all the way down into the visitors' net with 29.4 seconds left. Initially, the goal was credited to Hurricanes forward Brandon Sutter, but Ward was ultimately given credit for the score since he was shown to be the last Carolina player to touch the puck.
"I don't know how to explain it. I should make better decisions than that, definitely," Kovalchuk said. "We find a way to make the game interesting and we were working hard, but a bad decision by me cost us the game."
New Jersey will get rookie defenseman Adam Larsson back tonight after he missed the last two games while attending his grandmother's funeral in Sweden. The fourth overall pick of the 2011 draft was back at practice on Tuesday and is ready to go for this evening's game.
Devils defenseman Henrik Tallinder has missed the last five games with back spasms and is questionable for tonight.
The Devils are 8-6-1 as the home team and will end the 2011 calendar year on a two-game homestand. New Jersey will play its final game of December this Saturday against Pittsburgh.
New Jersey posted a 5-3 win in Buffalo when the teams met for the first of four encounters this year on Nov. 16. That victory ended a three-game slide in this series for the Devils, who have lost two straight and five of their last six home games against the Sabres.
12/28 10:51:53 ET