Preview: Devils at Sabres
The slumping Buffalo Sabres are unsure if captain Jack Eichel will be back in the lineup for Tuesday night's matchup against the visiting New Jersey Devils. Eichel was back at practice on Monday after sitting out the past two games due to an upper-body injury but coach Phil Housley said he would not know until Tuesday if his top scorer will be available to play.
Although Buffalo has lost four of its last five (1-3-1) and scored a combined five goals in the four defeats, Eichel is taking a long-range approach regarding his health. "It's not a rush. You don't want to put yourself in a bad position," Eichel said. "You want to make sure you're comfortable in every situation that you put yourself in, myself and the team." New Jersey also is missing its leading scorer in reigning NHL MVP Taylor Hall, but the team has managed to go 4-2-0 in his absence entering the finale of a four-game road trip. The Devils own a six-game point streak (5-0-1) against the Sabres and have won their last six visits to Buffalo.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, MSG (New Jersey), MSG-Buffalo
ABOUT THE DEVILS (16-18-7): New Jersey did not practice Monday so there were no medical updates on Hall and rookie netminder MacKenzie Blackwood, who was injured in Friday's win at Arizona and was not available to serve as a backup to Keith Kinkaid in Sunday's loss to Vegas. Kinkaid is a logical choice to get the nod against Buffalo -- he has won all three career starts against the Sabres while turning aside 80 of 83 shots. Center Nico Hischier, the top overall pick in the 2017 draft, has scored in back-to-back contests to give him five goals and nine points over his last 10 games.
ABOUT THE SABRES (22-14-6): While Eichel's status was the No. 1 topic Monday, forward Zemgus Girgensons went through his first full practice with the team since Dec. 22 and skated on a line with Casey Mittelstadt and C.J. Smith. "(Mittelstadt's) a skilled guy," Girgensons said. "Smith has good puck vision and good handling, so I've just got to keep doing my job, create space for them, and good things will happen." If Eichel does not play, Buffalo could be without two-thirds of its top line as forward Sam Reinhart did not practice for the second straight day due to illness.
1. Sabres backup G Linus Ullmark has started the past two games with G Carter Hutton mired in a six-game winless drought (0-4-2).
2. Devils F Kyle Palmieri has reached 20 goals in four straight seasons but has just two in 10 games against Buffalo.
3. Sabres F Jeff Skinner has 28 goals on the season and 13 tallies in 31 games versus New Jersey.
PREDICTION: Devils 3, Sabres 2