Jaromir Jagr

Devils prepare for ‘gut-check’ game versus Bruins

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New Jersey Devils forward Damien Brunner thinks his team played well enough to beat the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday, but the fact is they lost in a shootout and moral victories look a bit hollow at 1-5-4.

At this point, the main thing the Devils have going for them is the fact that the Metropolitan Division hasn’t exactly lived up to expectations. One win and four consolation points is good enough for sixth place and keeps them just four points shy of the playoff spot. So they aren’t in too deep a hole yet, but they still need to turn things around quickly.

The only problem is they will face the 7-2-0 Boston Bruins tonight.

“These are gut-check type games,” Devils coach Pete DeBoer told the Bergen Record. “For me, these are statement-type games that we have an opportunity to come in here and put our work boots and try and beat one of the best teams in the NHL. If we can do that, I think it could push us on to bigger and better things.”

This will also mark Jaromir Jagr’s first game against the Bruins since he participated in their run to the Stanley Cup Final. Jagr anticipated that cap issues would keep the Bruins from re-signing him and he enjoyed his time there.

Naturally, he also has plenty of experience playing against former teams, given that the Devils are his seventh NHL squad.

“I have to show everybody how to do it,” he joked. “I was gifted. I can’t help it. It’s my job.”

Related:

Schneider out Saturday with lower-body injury

Discuss: Bruins overpower Sabres on NBCSN; could John Scott be facing a suspension?

Boston Bruins v Buffalo Sabres
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The Boston Bruins defeated the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday night, but the third period was marred by a John Scott head shot on Loui Eriksson.

The Bruins won by a final score of 5-2, however Scott, the Sabres tough guy, was assessed a major penalty for charging for his elbow to the head of Eriksson less than six minutes into the third period.

Discuss:

  • How many games should Scott get?
  • The Bruins got a pair of third period goals from defenseman Torey Krug to pull away from the floundering Sabres. In the final seconds, the crowd in Buffalo, having already voiced their frustrations this season, began booing.
  • Chad Johnson’s debut for the Bruins could not have gone any better, or easier. He faced 17 shots. Yes. Seventeen shots. He stopped 15 of them, but was tested only twice in the third period.
  • Pretty nice save here by Ryan Miller. But it was tough night for the Sabres’ goalie after that.
  • Some good news for the Sabres: Rookie defenseman Nikita Zadorov, at just 18 years old and the 16th overall pick in this year’s draft, scored his first career NHL goal for Buffalo.

Video: Hamilton goes top shelf for Bruins

Boston Bruins v Philadelphia Flyers
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Boston Bruins sophomore defenseman Dougie Hamilton gave his team a two-goal lead over the Buffalo Sabres and did so in spectacular fashion Wednesday night.

Hamilton jumped up in an odd-man rush, took a nice cross-ice feed from Brad Marchand and roofed his shot top shelf on Sabres goalie Ryan Miller, giving the Bruins a 3-1 cushion in the second period.

The Sabres had cut that Bruins’ lead to just one goal after 40 minutes.

The Hamilton goal started in the Bruins’ zone, after goalie Chad Johnson, making his first start as a member of the Bruins, had to bail out a teammate for a bad giveaway that led to a Marcus Foligno shot.

Johnson made the save, which led to the rush back up the ice and the Hamilton goal.

Get your game notes: Bruins at Sabres

Vanek and Marchand
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The Sabres could use a much better effort tonight against the visiting Bruins. The game can be seen live on NBCSN (TSN2 in Canada) starting at 8 p.m. ET.

Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

• The Sabres are winless in their six home games this season (0-5-1), having been outscored by a combined 17-6 margin. The last time they suffered through such a streak at the First Niagara Center was Oct. 9-Nov. 5, 2010, when they went seven straight without a win (0-6-1). In 2013-14, the Bruins have won all three of their road games by a combined 11-3.

• The Sabres have been outscored 14-3 in first periods this season – one of the many reasons they have held a lead in only one of their 10 games. (During their 3-2 OT loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Oct. 8, they held leads of 1-0 and 2-1). The Sabres have played 606:50 this season and held a lead for a grand total of 9:35.

• Since the beginning of the 2010-11 season, the Boston Bruins have won 128 regular-season games (4th-most in the NHL), while the Buffalo Sabres have won only 104 (T-20th-most). However, the Sabres have the slight edge in head-to-head matchups during that span, winning nine (9-5-3 record, 21 points) to the Bruins’ eight (8-5-4, 20 points).

Of the six 400-goal scorers to have played in the NHL this season, only the Bruins’ Jarome Iginla (530 career goals) has yet to score in 2013-14.

Career goals 2013-14

1. Jaromir Jagr (NJ) 683 2
2. Teemu Selanne (ANA) 678 3
3. Iginla (BOS) 530 0
4. Marian Hossa (CHI) 437 3
5. Daniel Alfredsson (DET) 427 1
6. Patrick Marleau (SJ) 411 7

Tonight is Iginla’s 8th game; his only longer drought to start a season was in 1999-2000, when he went without a goal in his first 11 games as a member of the Calgary Flames.

• Neither the Bruins nor the Sabres have a player among the NHL’s top-50 in points this season. Of all the skaters, only Sabres forward Cody Hodgson has more than six points (2 goals, five assists = 7 points)

• Boston coach Claude Julien hinted after Monday’s practice that backup goaltender Chad Johnson will make his Bruins debut in the net tonight. That would mean that the Bruins will have started the backup in each of their last five meetings with the Sabres. After starting netminder Tuukka Rask (career: 4-5-1, 2.51 vs. BUF) surrendered a career-high six goals to Buffalo in a 7-4 loss on Jan. 31 in Boston, Anton Khudobin (now of the Carolina Hurricanes) started the following four games last season.

Rivalry Night on NBCSN: Bruins aim to increase Sabres’ suffering

TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 19: David Krejci #46, Jarome Iginla #12, and Milan Lucic #17 of the Boston Bruins are congratulated by teammates after a goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the first period at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on October 19, 2013 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)
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Throughout the season, NBCSN will feature the NHL’s fiercest rivalries on Wednesday nights. Tonight the Boston Bruins will head to the First Niagara Center to take on the Buffalo Sabres at 8:00 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

Buffalo is one of just three clubs with only one win this season, along with the Philadelphia Flyers and the New Jersey Devils. If you’re fishing for some kind of silver lining for the Sabres, it’s that they at least didn’t enter the season amid high expectations and they still have their 2014 first round draft pick.

Those are the kinds of “well it could be worse” stories that seem appropriate lately. Buffalo’s 1-8-1 record is bad enough, but its offense outside of Cody Hodgson and Thomas Vanek has bordered on non-existent. This is a team that gets better as games progress, but only because they’ve set the bar so low with just a single first period goal so far this season.

Related: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a $1,500 Fantasy Hockey league that includes Wednesday and Thursday’s NHL games. It’s just $10 to join and first prize is $400. Starts Wednesday at 7:30pm ET. Here’s the link.

It’s still early, but rather than that being an indication that there’s plenty of time to stage a comeback, it might just be a reminder that Sabres fans have a long road ahead of them. But at the same time beaten down teams can be dangerous, especially when they’re playing against old foes.

After finishing just shy of the Stanley Cup in 2013, the Boston Bruins have gotten off to a great start. Goaltender Tuukka Rask is excelling, even by his high standards and the Bruins attack has been balanced. They can’t afford to let up though; not with the Atlantic Division looking better than expected.

The Detroit Red Wings have adapted well to the Eastern Conference and the Toronto Maple Leafs haven’t been deterred by their Game 7 collapse in the first round of the 2013 playoffs. Meanwhile, the Ottawa Senators, Montreal Canadiens, and Tampa Bay Lightning haven’t been quite as good so far, but each team certainly has enough talent to be a threat. With that in mind, banking points now against struggling teams would make life far easier for the Bruins come March and April.

So Boston will look to add to Buffalo’s pain while the Sabres would just like to give themselves and their fans some indication there’s still reason to be hopeful about the 2013-14 campaign.