Tonight's game might come down to the team scoring first going on to victory. Typically when the Sabres play the New Jersey Devils it isn't an offensive masterpiece. But this season has seen both clubs fall to the bottom of the league in terms of scoring ability so getting the first goal might be the most important factor in tonight's outcome.
The Sabres entered the weekend as the lowest scoring team in the NHL but the Devils aren't much better. New Jersey is 28th, which is third worst. The Devils average 2.12 goals per game and have been held to 2 or fewer goals in 15 of their 25 contests going into the weekend.
Perhaps the lack of scoring is the result of a lack of chances. New Jersey is dead last in shots on goal per game with an average of 24. Of course, the team that has the second lowest shots per game average is the Devils opponent tonight.
Blame can be spread around amongst the forwards. Adam Henrique has five goals in his first 25 games and a 10 game goal scoring drought. Michael Ryder also has five in 25 and is zero for his last nine games. Travis Zajac has four goals in 19 games and former Sabre, Dainius Zubrus has three in 25 games. Defensemen Marek Zidlicky and Andy Greene are third and fourth respectively in points scored.
Don't blame the goalies, because both are playing well, despite a lack of offensive support. Sound familiar Sabres fans? Martin Brodeur went into the weekend with a 2.19 goals against average and .910 save percentage while off season acquisition Cory Schneider is making a strong bid for a spot on Team USA at the Olympics. Schneider has a .925 save percentage and miniscule 1.87 goals against but his record is 2-5-3.
The Devils have had a hard time replacing the loss of some big guns over the last two years. If you go back to the 2012 team that lost in the Stanley Cup Finals to the Los Angeles Kings, you will see the top three goal scorers for that club are no longer around.
Ilya Kovalchuk, who had 37 goals in the last full NHL season, left the Devils high and dry when he bolted for Russia. Zach Parise who had 31 goals two years ago, left later that summer for big money from the Minnesota Wild. David Clarkson struck it rich in free agency last summer. He netted 30 goals two years ago. That's a total of 98 goals that left with the Devils receiving nothing in return.