Season series: First of four meetings this season. The teams split the 2009-10 series, with New Jersey's 2-1 win on April 11 coming in somewhat bizarre fashion. The Sabres needed to win the regular-season finale in regulation to edge out the Devils for the second seed in the Eastern Conference, so they pulled goalie Patrick Lalime in the closing moments of a 1-1 game and Jamie Langenbrunner scored into the empty net with 3.6 seconds remaining.
Big story: Each team has lost its first two games on home ice, and New Jersey is still trying to work its way into the win column. The Devils played with only 15 skaters on Monday afternoon against the Penguins due to injuries to forward Brian Rolston (back) and defenseman Anton Volchenkov (broken nose) and a one-game suspension to Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond, combined with salary-cap constraints resulting from the mega-contract Ilya Kovalchuk signed last month.
Devils: John MacLean might've been thinking this coaching thing wasn't so difficult after New Jersey scored twice in the first eight minutes of its home opener against Dallas on Friday. But since that point the Devils have been outscored 14-4 by their opponents. They got a point out of their overtime loss to the Stars before getting throttled by the Capitals in Washington and losing 3-1 to the Penguins in a Columbus Day matinee. Patrik Elias drew them to within a goal by scoring in the third, but ex-Devil Paul Martin's empty-netter sealed it for Pittsburgh, leaving MacLean still in search of his first NHL win behind the bench.
"For the most part we did a lot of good things tonight," Langenbrunner said. "We played a little bit tentative early on, but I think we finished well at the end, played hard. We just have to find a way to play 60 minutes one of these nights. We always seem to have a stretch in one of the periods where we're off."
Sabres: This is the third installment in a four-game homestand for Buffalo that hasn't gone according to plan so far. The Sabres started their season with a road win over the Northeast Division-rival Senators, but they were blasted by the Rangers and blew an early 2-0 lead en route to a 4-3 loss Monday night against the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks. Adding injury to insult, Jason Pominville is likely to miss at least a week with a concussion after he was knocked into the boards on a hit by Chicago defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson, who received a boarding major and game misconduct.
"He's doing OK," coach Lindy Ruff told the Buffalo News. "We seemed a little stunned for a little while. Pommer's really been our ironman. That this is somebody laying there, you're just thinking and praying that everything's going to be OK."
Who's hot: Jason Arnott (2-1-3) and Elias (1-2-3), linemates on the Devils' 2000 championship team, have points in all three games this season. … Derek Roy has 4 goals already for the Sabres, with at least one in each game. Jordan Leopold has 2 goals and 4 points in the last two games, while Drew Stafford has a goal and 2 assists over that span. Tyler Ennis has a three-game points streak, contributing 4 assists.
Injury report: Rolston and Volchenkov remain day-to-day for New Jersey, while defensemen Bryce Salvador (concussion) and Anssi Salmela (knee) are on injured reserve. … Pominville is the only injury Buffalo lists.
Stat pack: Playing with only three lines Monday, the ice time of the Devils' forwards ranged from 23 minutes (Travis Zajac) down to 16:24 (Arnott). … Pominville's streak of 335 consecutive games played, dating back to a healthy scratch when the Sabres faced the Flyers on April 7, 2006, is expected to come to an end Wednesday.
Puck drop: New Jersey defenseman Henrik Tallinder, a second-round pick by Buffalo in the 1997 Entry Draft who played 468 games there over parts of eight seasons, makes his return to the HSBC Arena ice. It's also possible ex-Sabre Adam Mair could be in the lineup -- the Devils waived Letourneau-Leblond and were expected to sign Mair, who played with them during the preseason on a tryout contract.