Sabres host surprising Devils on Friday

Lindy Ruff's team has won 13-of-14 games

Buffalo, N.Y. (WGR 550) – The New Jersey Devils play in Buffalo on Friday, bringing a 16-4-0 record ahead of their matchup with the Sabres. Lindy Ruff’s crew has won 13 out of 14 games, and is second in the NHL with a points percentage of .800.

Nobody in the Sabres organization ever said they would make the playoffs this season and they won’t. Next season should be the year they can challenge.

Kevyn Adams has had a clear plan since he became general manager, and he has never, and will never waiver from it.

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If you need an example of that, you can win through development and trades. The Devils are Exhibit A. This team was built through the draft, through trades, and through smart free agent signings.

New Jersey only signed one huge unrestricted free agent and that was defenseman Dougie Hamilton. Others signed to fill in were winger Tomas Tatar and defenseman Brendan Smith.

The Devils have two No. 1 overall picks in their lineup in Jack Hughes and captain Nico Hischier. Michael McLeod was taken 12th overall in 2016, and Dawson Mercer was selected 18th overall in 2020.

Nathan Bastian, Damon Severson, Mackenzie Blackwood and Jesper Boqvist were taken in the second round, while Fabian Zetterlund was selected in the third round. Jesper Bratt, Miles Wood, Akira Schmid and Yegor Sharangovich were all later round picks.

Players acquired by trade were Vitek Vanecek, John Marino, Ryan Graves, Erik Haula and Jonas Siegenthaler.

Adams talks about reloading with young talent as you go, and the Devils have done that.

In the last three seasons, the Devils have had six first-round picks. Mercer has played 102 NHL games, while seventh overall pick in 2020, Alexander Holtz, has played 13 games.

In 2021, Luke Hughes was taken fourth overall and Chase Stillman was selected 29th. In 2022, Simon Nimec went second overall, and none of those players, including 2020 20th overall pick Shakir Mukhamadullin have played in the NHL yet.

That’s why you hear Adams and head coach Don Granato say they’re 100% sure their plan they committed to will work.

With an injury to Blackwood, Schmid is up from the AHL's Utica Comets and will play on Friday. He’s 3-0-0 this season with a 1.34 goals-against average and a .941 save percentage. He's earned wins over the Ottawa Senators, 5-1, Arizona Coyotes, 4-2, and only played 13:50 against the Senators at home and got the seven-save win.

New Jersey doesn’t have a superstar they depend on. There’s balance throughout their lineup.

Bratt leads the way with 24 points in 20 games, while Hischier has 22 points in 19 games, and Hughes has 21 points in 20 games.

Buffalo has three players with 10 goals or more, while the Devils have none.

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The Sabres will welcome captain Kyle Okposo back into the lineup on Friday night. He’ll play on the right wing with Tyson Jost and Zemgus Girgensons. Peyton Krebs will sit along with Lawrence Pilut.

Jacob Bryson only played about nine minutes on Wednesday night before leaving with an injury that’s going to keep him out week-to-week. Rasmus Asplund skated Friday morning, but is still considered day-to-day.

Casey Fitzgerald will take the spot of Bryson on the blue line.

Buffalo busted out of their eight-game losing streak with 7-2 win in Montreal over the Canadiens on Tuesday, and followed that with a 6-2 home victory over the St. Louis Blues.

Craig Anderson made 29 saves in the Canadiens game and will be in goal on Friday. In his last two games, Anderson has played 85:33, allowing three goals on 46 shots. Overall, he’s 4-3-0 this season with a 2.71 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage.

In the last two games, the Sabres have killed off 8-of-9 penalties. Adding Mattias Samuelsson and Tyson Jost to that group has been huge.

Alex Tuch has points in five-straight games, scoring three goals and seven assists for 10 points. Jeff Skinner has four goals and three assists for seven points in his last two games, while Jack Quinn has two goals and two assists for four points in his last three games.

Dylan Cozens may not be scoring goals, but he has eight assists in his last 10 games. He has nine points in those 10 games.

Join Brian Koziol for pregame coverage on WGR starting at 7 p.m. EST when you’ll hear from Granato, Quinn and Okposo.

Photo credit Losi and Gangi
Featured Image Photo Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig - USA TODAY Sports