With the lockout done and the schedule for this shortened season already decided, The Devils’ Den will give you an in-depth look at the team’s opponents this season. We kicked things off with a look at the Boston Bruins, and we’ll continue today with a preview of the Buffalo Sabres.
Last year was supposed to be the year in Buffalo.
New owner Terry Pegula, not afraid to open up the checkbook, brought in Christian Ehrhoff, Ville Leino and Robyn Regehr. Doling out the cash, however, didn’t match the lofty expectations fans and analysts had for this team. They spent most of the year at the bottom of the conference, and only a late-season surge saved them from being a complete bust.
On top of their struggles, opponents exposed Buffalo’s lack of grit. In the most glaring example, Boston Bruins forward Milan Lucic bowled over Ryan Miller in open ice, and no one on the Sabres responded.
This offseason, Pegula added that toughness, bringing in the likes of John Scott, Steve Ott. The Sabres also kept Patrick Kaleta, re-signing their in-house enforcer.
There were no changes this season despite the failure to reach the playoffs. Will this be coach Lindy Ruff and general manager Darcy Regier’s last chance to bring the team deep in the playoffs?
The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (3-7-1) face off against the Los Angeles Kings (7-3-0) tonight at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. This is the first and only meeting between the two teams this season.
The Last Devils Game: The Devils defeated the Anaheim Ducks, 2-1, last night in Anaheim. The Devils, unable to capitalize on four first period power plays, fell behind 1-0 in the second period. With Jamie Langenbrunner in the box for hooking, Jason Blake attempted to stuff a puck past Martin Brodeur. The Devils goalie stopped Blake’s first attempt, but the left-winger put the rebound home for his second goal of the season.
The Devils would tie the game at 10:39 of the period. Langenbrunner came from behind the net and put a shot on Jonas Hiller from the goal line. The puck caromed off the goalie’s left pad and through his legs for Langenbrunner’s first goal of the season. Patrik Elias scored the game-winning goal at 1:54 of the period. Alexander Vasyunov and Elias broke into the Ducks’ zone, and Elias one-timed a pass from the rookie over the glove of Hiller for his second goal of the season.
The Last Kings Game: The Kings defeated the Dallas Stars, 5-2, on Thursday night. Tied 1-1 after the second period, the Kings scored three straight goals to put them ahead, 4-1. Wayne Simmonds, Jack Johnson and Willie Mitchell each recorded two points for L.A.·
The Last Devils – Kings Game: The Kings defeated the Devils, 3-2, January 31 at the Prudential Center. Johnny Oduya scored the first goal of the game, lighting the lamp at 4:45 of the first period to put the Devils ahead, 1-0. Travis Zajac scored at 5:56 of the second period to extend the Devils lead to 2-0, but the Kings wouldn’t go quietly into the night.
Michal Handzus cut the lead in half with his goal at 19:31 of the second period. Simmonds pulled the Kings even at 18:19 of the third period. With under a minute left, and Andy Greene in the box for tripping, Drew Doughty fired home a point shot for the game-winning powerplay goal.
For a complete look at the Devils’ complete numbers against the Kings, check out this season preview post.
For the rest of the preview, read after the jump!
Throughout the offseason, The Devils’ Den will preview the Devils 2010-2011 schedule, giving you an in-depth preview of the 29 other teams the Devils will face next season. Last season, the Devils took first place in the Atlantic Division and second in the Eastern Conference. This season, the team will look to improve on their abysmal playoff performance, which saw them bow out in the first round at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers. In today’s second preview, we take a look at this season’s matchup with the Los Angeles Kings.
Kings vs. Devils – Historical Data
In 90 all-time regular season meetings, the Devils are 29-48-11-2 against the Kings. The Devils average 3.20 goals against the Kings, but allow the Kings to score 4.02 goals per game, most to any team New Jersey has faced. Both teams faced off on January 31 last season, with the Kings winning the game, 3-2.
Johnny Oduya scored the first goal of the game, lighting the lamp at 4:45 of the first period to put the Devils ahead, 1-0. Travis Zajac scored at 5:56 of the second period to extend the Devils lead to 2-0, but the Kings wouldn’t go quietly into the night.
Michal Handzus cut the lead in half with his goal at 19:31 of the second period. Wayne Simmonds pulled the Kings even at 18:19 of the third period. With under a minute left, and Andy Greene in the box for tripping, Drew Doughty fired home a point shot for the game-winning powerplay goal.
Devils vs. Kings – This Season’s Matchup
The Kings and Devils will square off once this season, on October 30 in Los Angeles. That game comes in the middle of a four-game road trip for the Devils, which features matchups against the Anaheim Ducks, Vancouver Canuks and Chicago Blackhawks.
The Kings and Devils have already been linked during the offseason. Los Angeles became a serious player for Ilya Kovalchuk, offering the left-winger a 15-year, $80 million contract before he signed with the Devils. Sadly, that was one of the highlights of the Kings’ off-season. The team made minor upgrades, signing Alexei Ponikarovsky and Willie Mitchell. The team also saw Alexander Frolov leave via free agency. Despite the lack of a big name signing, the Kings still reached the playoffs for the first time since 2002, and recorded 101 points, the third time in team history they cracked the century mark. The Kings are a talented group, and they shouldn’t be taken lightly at any point throughout the season.
Other Important Stats
In 14 career regular season appearances against the Kings, Martin Brodeur 8-5-0-1 with a 2.05 goals against average and .921 save percentage…In eight career games against the Kings, Kovalchuk has tallied 12 points (six goals, six assists). Now we know why the Kings wanted him…In 28 career games against the Devils, Handzus has 13 points (four goals, nine assists) and a +2 rating.