Oddly enough, both Devil wins have been via the shutout. What does it mean? That perhaps John MacLean's talented club is better off playing smart hockey instead of opening it up. Especially still without top D Anton Volchenkov and Bryce Salvador on LTI. The Devs have gotten nice contributions from unknown rookie Matt Taormina, who paces their blueline with four points (2-2-4). The just turned 24 year-old undrafted player the club signed following a breakout season in the 'A' under MacLean has evolved into their offensive threat from the back end. He's been used on the power play and has a good idea when to pinch.
At 2-4-1, Taormina's been one of the bright spots on a vet club that needs better from Patrik Elias (goal), Travis Zajac (1-3-4), Zach Parise (2 goals) and franchise finisher Ilya Kovalchuk (2 goals). Parise scored Thursday and Jason Arnott notched a goal and assist, tying Kovalchuk for the team lead with five points (3-2-5). Jamie Langenbrunner had a helper but still hasn't lit the lamp. Dainius Zubrus has been a constant which explains why he's on the top line. David Clarkson remains a mystery with no points and a club worst minus-six rating. Is he getting lost in the shuffle? No question the Devs need more from the energizer. They can also use better play from '09-10 revelation Andy Greene (2 assists, -4), who hasn't gotten untracked.
It's the second meeting already between New Jersey and Buffalo, who dropped their fourth in five at home to enemy Ottawa yesterday by a count of 4-2. Even worse, Daniel Alfredsson notched a hat trick to reach 1,000 career points. Tim Connolly tallied twice for the Sabres, who fell at home to the Devils Oct.13 1-0 when Taormina forced a turnover and fed Kovalchuk for a one-time blast in overtime. With the Devs still in search for their first home win (0-3-1) and the Sabres scuffling, something has to give later. It'll be interesting to see how Hedberg performs. The ex-Thrasher was part of Atlanta's mastery over Buffalo along with Kovalchuk, who owns them with 19 goals and 12 assists in the last 29 games. He'll have to outduel Ryan Miller, who basically is left to man the Sabre net by himself.
"He’s going to give us 110 percent,” Kovalchuk told the Devils’ website. “Every practice, every game, he gives it his all. He’s a great competitor and he’s going to battle hard. He’s going to give us a great game. He won a lot of games for us in Atlanta. I’m sure he’s going to do the same thing here.”
Will the more rested home club take advantage of a weary opponent? They shouldn't take at easy. Figure Lindy Ruff's team to be plenty angry when the puck drops an hour from now.