1. Firepower Vs. Firepower
There is going to be a hell of a lot of firepower on show today between the New Jersey Devils and the Buffalo Sabres. As we mentioned in the previous slide, Jack Hughes is proving why he was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft with seven points (3 G, 4 A) in seven games, and he will be one to watch today as he looks to spearhead a return to winning ways for his team.
Hughes looked especially dangerous with Jesper Bratt and Andreas Johnsson on a new-look top line on Thursday against the Philadelphia Flyers and, having had some extra time to properly mesh together, that trio could pose a significant threat to the Buffalo Sabres this afternoon, while the likes of Kyle Palmieri and Nikita Gusev are probably due a breakout game too.
However, the Sabres are awash with offensive talent and potent weapons, including Taylor Hall who will go up against his former team today for the first time since being traded to the Arizona Coyotes at last year’s Trade Deadline. Hall signed a one-year, $8 million contract with Buffalo during the offseason and is hoping to boost his value and repair his reputation somewhat by playing with elite center Jack Eichel for the season, while he will no doubt be extra motivated to impress against the Devils today.
It has been a pretty decent start for Hall in Buffalo with the forward recording seven points (1 G, 6 A) in eight games so far, although he could be on a line with veteran pivot Eric Staal for today’s game with Sam Reinhart day-to-day with an upper-body injury. If Reinhart isn’t good to go for this afternoon, then it would be somewhat of a blow given that the winger has six points (3 G, 3 A) in eight games, including two points against the New York Rangers on Thursday.
However, while the Buffalo Sabres will be weaker for not having Reinhart in the lineup, they could actually spread more depth throughout the lineup by moving Hall down to Staal’s line, while reuniting Eichel with Victor Olofsson could pay dividends. After all, Eichel and Olofsson have already established lethal chemistry together and the duo could really go to town on a Devils team who will once again be without No. 1 goalie Mackenzie Blackwood, who remains on the NHL’s COVID-19 Protocol list.
Eichel has two goals and seven assists for nine points in eight games and he will no doubt be looking for a strong bounce-back after being at fault for the goal the Rangers scored in Overtime on Thursday, while Olofsson has three goals and four assists for seven points and he will thrive on receiving saucer passes from Eichel this afternoon.
Overall, both the Buffalo Sabres and the New Jersey Devils have players who can be real elite game-changers and put up huge offense, and that should only make for a mouthwatering game of hockey this afternoon. I mean, Jack Eichel and Taylor Hall going up against Jack Hughes and Kyle Palmieri is going to be a lot of fun to watch, and this game should be played with real urgency given what is at stake for both teams who are looking to keep pace in a stacked East Division.