Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Buffalo Sabres vs New Jersey Devils Monday preview on Versus

BUFFALO SABRES VS NJ DEVILS VERSUS PREVIEW - PHOTO JON SWENSON NJ'S MARTIN BRODEUR WILL MISS 1ST START IN 51 GAMES - PHOTO JON SWENSON Here is a brief analysis on of the Buffalo Sabres vs New Jersey Devils game airing tonight at 4:00PM (PT): Without Brodeur, Devils Attempt to Quiet Vanek, Sabres By Jon SwensonNovember 3, 2008 Tonight will be one of those rare nights when Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur will not be between the pipes. Thanks to a bruised elbow suffered Saturday night against the Thrashers, Brodeur will not start against the Sabres on Versus. Thatâ??s unfortunate because Brodeur is quietly closing in on all-time career marks for wins (seven shy of Patrick Roy's 551), shutouts (five shy of Terry Sawchuk's 103) and games played (51 shy of Patrick Roy's 1029). The four-time Vezina Trophy winner and seven-time all-star could rightfully be considered the best goaltender to ever play the game. Brodeur's mix of athleticism, anticipation, superb positioning and mental focus make each opportunity to watch him a study in goaltending. On the transition from defense to offense, Brodeur operates like a third defenseman altering how teams set up their dump-ins and forecheck due to his ability to play the puck. The Devils will need a stingy performance from backup Kevin Weekes if goal support trends remain the same against Buffalo. New Jersey has scored two goals or less in three of its five wins and no more than a pair in two of four losses. Conversely, the Sabres have had ample offense to spread around. Left wing Thomas Vanek leads the/nhl in goal scoring with 11, and the Sabres have scored three goals or more in five of six wins. The key for tonightâ??s game is for Weekes to play well and get help from his teammates. Support from the forwards is a must and if the Devils contain a potent Buffalo attack, they will have an opportunity to grind out a win. Brodeur is not the only hobbled Devil. Defenseman Andy Greene was struck by a Pavel Kubina shot Wednesday and will miss up to six weeks with a broken hand. Brian Rolston (ankle sprain), Bobby Holik (broken finger), Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond and Barry Tallackson join him on the injured list. The Sabres, meanwhile, are seeing a steady stream of players return to the lineup from IR. Center Paul Gaustad and defenseman Henrik Tallinder returned for a 5-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday. Defenseman and captain Craig Rivet skated for the first time since having knee surgery while centers Tim Connolly and Jochen Hecht are also skating with the team and could return shortly. Rivetâ??s knee injury does raise an issue of age on the blue line for the Sabres. According to age and weight data compiled by the Globe and Mail's James Mirtle, the Sabres ice the oldest defensive corps in the/nhl with an average age of 32.1. Youth abounds up front, however, with 24-year-old Thomas Vanek, 29-year old shifty right wing Maxim Afinogenov and 29-year old Czech right wing Ales Kotalik leading the Sabresâ?? offense. Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff cites increased ice time, better movement without the puck, and more responsibility on defense leading to the marked improvement in Vanek's game this season. After career highs of 43 goals and 41 assists in 2006-07, his production fell to 36 and 28 last season. Still, he received an offer sheet from the Edmonton Oilers that forced the Sabres to sign the fourth-year/nhler to a monster 7-year, $50-million contract. Defense wins championships, and on this night New Jersey will have to find a way to keep the Sabres off the scoreboard without their great goaltender. Jon Swenson has been blogging about the Sharks and the/nhl on since 1998. His writing and photographs have appeared in several print and online publications. This is my first contribution to, although a couple of photos from this blog were used on Other bloggers contributing to Versus this season will be Mike Chen of Fox Sports and Kukla's Corner, Deadspin offshoot Melt Your Face Off, HLOG, and Bryan Thiel from the Bleacher Report.'s Greg Wyshynski talks with former and AOL Sports executive editor and current Versus VP of digital media Neal Scarbrough about encorporating bloggers into coverage and a potential new direction for the site: After years of criticism, Versus plans courtship of die-hard fans. The New Jersey Devils will make 6 appearances on Versus this season, 11/3 vs Buffalo, 12/23 vs Boston, 12/30 at St. Louis, 2/9 vs NYR, 3/23 at Philadelphia, 3/30 at NYR. The Buffalo Sabres appear on Versus 8 times this season. After a 3-2 shootout win over Boston on 10/21, Buffalo will be featured 7 more times including 11/3 at New Jersey, 12/8 at Pittsburgh, 12/22 vs Pittsburgh, 2/17 at Toronto, 2/24 vs Anaheim, 3/10 at Philadelphia, and 4/6 vs Detroit. [Update] Martin joins Devils' growing injury list; no update on Brodeur - Rich Chere for the New Jersey Star-Ledger. [Update2] Kotalik muscles way to top line, Right winger playing with Vanek and Roy - John Vogl for the Buffalo News. â??Heâ??s a powerful man, by far, maybe our strongest all-around player when it comes to off-ice strength and on-ice strength,â? coach Lindy Ruff said. Kotalikâ??s strength is more evident this year. How strong is he? Well, so far, heâ??s lifted two teammates and put them in other spots. Kotalik had been playing so well at right wing that the coaching staff had little choice but to move Maxim Afinogenov, a lifelong right winger, to the left side. Now itâ??s Drew Stafford whoâ??s been carried elsewhere. The slumping forward had been on the top line with Derek Roy and Thomas Vanek. But Kotalik, with eight points in the first 11 games, has risen to the No. 1 unit while dropping Stafford down to the third line. [Update3] A Record the Injured Brodeur Will Not Break - Adrian Dater for

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