Five Things to Know as Sabres host Devils in holiday matinee - The Buffalo News

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Five Things to Know as Sabres host Devils in holiday matinee

It's only the third game of the season, but Jack Eichel is already calling it a must-win.

Here are Five Things to Know as the Sabres host New Jersey on Monday in a holiday matinee (3 p.m., MSG, WGR-AM 550).

1. Zero in the win column

Buffalo is 0-1-1 after a season-opening shootout loss to Montreal and a 6-3 shellacking on the road against the Islanders. With a four-game West Coast road trip on tap, the game against the Devils takes on added importance.

"It's a must-win game right now," Eichel said. "It's important to get off to a good start in the beginning of the season and put yourself in a good position. Obviously, we're not happy with our first two efforts. Let's learn from these two games and what we need to correct."

The Sabres took their foot off the gas at times during Saturday's loss, and the Isles buzzed past them.

"Just some mental lapses," Eichel said, "and teams are taking advantage of it."

Devil in the details as the Sabres prepare to host New Jersey

2. Kids Day party canceled

The Sabres were scheduled to throw a Kids Day Party in the Plaza for the game, but it's been canceled due to rainy weather.

Several activities will still take place inside KeyBank Center on the 100 Level pavilion starting at 1 p.m. There will be airbrush tattoos, balloon animals, a fan photo area and music from DJ Milk. Perry’s Ice Cream and Yancey’s Fancy will have samples. Sabretooth and other local mascots will be available for autographs and pictures.

3. Opponents' penalties are dangerous

The power play, which won games for Buffalo last season as the NHL's top unit, cost the team in the first two. After giving up four short-handed goals last season, they've already given up three – and another goal came 10 seconds after a power play elapsed.

"We've just got to make sure we're sharp on the power play and make sure that we come with a mentality that we're going to go outwork them and we're going to go score every time we get on the ice," right wing Kyle Okposo said. "We can't be second-guessing ourselves. I know it's easy to do. Myself, I've had a couple games where I haven't been up to the standard of play that I want to play at.

"But you've got to keep going. Those games are behind you, and you've got to move forward."

Sabres come up short in big way, especially on power play

4. Close encounters

With 12 shootouts in 33 matchups since the beginning of 2007-08 season, the Sabres have had more breakaway challenges against the Devils than any nondivisional opponent. Buffalo is 7-5 in the shootouts.

Buffalo needs a victory to avoid its first five-game losing streak against New Jersey since the Devils won six in a row from March 9, 1997, to Jan. 6, 2000.

Coach Phil Housley will announce the Sabres' lineup with a news conference shortly before 1 p.m.

5. Young Devils

New Jersey has eight players age 23 or younger on its roster, led by No. 1 overall draft pick Nico Hischier and prized rookie free agent Will Butcher. The Devils have the NHL's second-youngest forward corps, averaging 24.3 years old.

New Jersey is 1-0 after a 4-1 victory over Colorado. Butcher became the first Devils player with three points in his debut.

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