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HomeSportsHockeyNHL News: Slumping Devils aim to turn around fortunes vs. Sabres

NHL News: Slumping Devils aim to turn around fortunes vs. Sabres


November likely can’t end soon enough for the New Jersey Devils.

After a 5-2-1 run in October, the Devils are 3-7-0 this month with three games remaining, including Saturday night’s matchup against the Buffalo Sabres in Newark, N.J.

The Devils have lost three in a row — including 2-1 to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday — and have won only once in their past seven games.

“That was just a tough result,” forward Jack Hughes said after the loss to Columbus. “We didn’t generate anything. We didn’t score. We didn’t execute. We’re talking too much … we have to go out and play better.”

New Jersey has allowed 38 goals this month and has seen its opponents score at least four goals in every loss except for the setback against the Blue Jackets.

New Jersey had high hopes this season after finishing third overall in the NHL in 2022-23. But as the team approaches the quarter mark of the season, it finds itself in seventh place in the Metropolitan Division, only one point ahead of last-place Columbus.

After a 4-0 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday, the Devils focused on raising their compete level and winning puck battles in practice Thursday. They followed that with some “honest conversations,” forward Erik Haula said.

And while they saw some improvement against the Blue Jackets, it was just a step.

“In my mind, there’s still a long way to go,” defenseman Brendan Smith said. “We’re not close to the team we want to be right now.”

Starts have been a struggle for the Devils, who have led after the first period only twice so far, winning both times. They’ve trailed five other times after the opening frame and are 0-4-1 in those contests.

Tyler Toffoli has been a solid addition to the Devils this season. He leads the team with nine goals and is third with 16 points. Toffoli, however, has tallied just once in his past six games and only twice this month.

The Sabres enter Saturday’s game on a high after rallying for a 3-2 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday. Buffalo scored all three of its goals in the third period in a span of 12:03.

“I’ve talked about it before — we just haven’t played our game,” Sabres captain Kyle Okposo said. “It’s just pressure, pressure, pressure, go, go, go. … That’s what we had for a long time, but we haven’t really had that this year. I thought that we just did a really good of pressuring the puck and taking away their time and space and just attacking.”

It’s been an inconsistent season for the Sabres, who have won consecutive games only once and not since Oct. 29-Nov. 1. The win against the Penguins moved the team to 2-0-1 in its past three after a three-game losing streak.

A struggling power play has been an issue for Buffalo; however, the team could be on the verge of turning a corner. After scoring just five times on 49 man-advantage opportunities through the first 17 games, the Sabres have connected in each of the past three games, going 3-for-10.

Jeff Skinner has scored three of his team-leading nine goals on the power play, including the one in Friday’s contest that started the Sabres’ comeback.

“We didn’t try to pass it in the net,” coach Don Granato said. “We didn’t look for something pretty. Usually when you’re very, very intent and aggressive, it ends up being pretty anyway. That one certainly was.”

The Sabres are expected to make a recall from Rochester of the American Hockey League. Zemgus Girgensons left Friday’s game in the second period with a lower-body injury, and Jordan Greenway was scratched with an undisclosed ailment.

–Field Level Media

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