By John Schweibacher
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The Devils face a pair of Northeast Division opponents this week; the Buffalo Sabres and Boston Bruins, wrapped around a visit from the Colorado Avalanche.
The Sabres are led by Lindy Ruff, who is beginning his 13th season behind the bench for Buffalo, the longest tenure of any current NHL head coach. New Jersey has had 12 different head coaches (three with two stints as coach) since Ruff took over the helm with the Sabres at the start of the 1997-98 season.
The last time the Devils faced Buffalo before Ruff’s stint began was back on March 9th, 1997 with Ted Nolan coaching the Sabres in a 4-1 loss to New Jersey.
Ruff has faced the Devils 48 times as Buffalo’s coach, the fourth most regular season games among current NHL coaches but is the only one among the top 10 who has done it all with just one club:
Coach – (teams) NJD record in games vs. Coach
· Terry Murray (Was, Phi, Fla, LA) – 59 (32-25-2)
· Jacques Martin (Stl, Ott, Fla, Mtl) – 57 (34-19-4)
· Paul Maurice (Hfd, Car, Tor) – 50 (30-14-6)
· Lindy Ruff (Buf) – 48 (28-14-6)
· Ron Wilson (Ana, Was, SJ, Tor) – 40 (19-17-4)
· Tom Renney (Van, NYR) – 34 (17-12-5)
· John Tortorella (TB, NYR) – 33 (10-17-6)
· Peter Laviolette (NYI, Car, Phi) – 27 (18-6-3)
· Marc Crawford (Que, Col, Van, LA, Dal) – 24 (12-10-2)
· Claude Julien (Mtl, Bos) – 19 (12-5-2)
Jason Arnott scored a power-play goal opening night against Dallas in his first game in his second stint with New Jersey. Arnott’s last goal for the Devils came back in March of 2002, a few weeks prior to the deal which sent Arnott to the Stars. Here is the list of the longest gaps between goals in separate stints with Devils:
· Brendan Shanahan: 17 years, 2 months & 20 days (3/31/91 vs. NY Islanders—1/19/09 at Nashville).
· Jim Dowd: 10 years, 11 months & 20 days (11/18/95 vs. Buffalo–11/7/06 vs. Carolina).
· Brian Rolston: 8 years, 11 months & 9 days (10/27/99 vs. St. Louis–10/16/08 at Atlanta).
· Jason Arnott: 8 years, 7 months & 8 days (3/1/02 vs. Toronto–10/7/10 vs. Dallas).
· Bobby Holik: 6 years, 8 months & 13 days (4/1/02) at NY Islanders–12/13/08 vs. Buffalo).
· Tommy Albelin: 6 years, 4 months & 19 days (10/19/95 vs. Detroit–3/10/02 at Dallas).
· Pascal Rheaume: 6 years & 23 days (2/20/97 at Florida–3/15/03 vs. NY Rangers).
· Vladimir Malakhov: 5 years, 6 months & 18 days (4/2/00 at Tampa Bay–10/20/05 at Pittsburgh).
· Stephane Richer: 5 years, 11 months, 27 days (3/28/96 at St. Louis–3/27/02 at Pittsburgh).
· Claude Lemieux: 4 years, 6 months & 9 days (4/28/95 vs. Florida–11/6/99 vs. Toronto).
· Alexander Mogilny: 4 years, 6 months & 4 days (4/3/01 at Washington–10/7/05 at Philadelphia).
· Mike Rupp: 2 years, 8 months & 26 days (2/14/04 vs. Carolina–11/9/06 vs. Chicago).
The Devils host the Avalanche on Friday night. New Jersey faced Colorado just once last season, a 3-1 loss in Denver back on January 16th. The Avs have made just one appearance at Prudential Center, a 4-0 New Jersey win on February 26th, 2009, the night when Martin Brodeur returned after missing 50 games with a torn ligament in his elbow.
The Bruins will be next up for the Devils Saturday night at the Rock. New Jersey went 3-0-1 against Boston in 2009-10. The pair of late-season home contests vs. the Bruins were two of just five games over the last 14 after the Devils acquired Ilya Kovalchuk, that were not sellouts at Prudential Center. Kovalchuk’s New Jersey debut against Toronto, one with Philadelphia the night of the huge February 10th snowstorm and one vs. Columbus were the only others not to draw a full-house after the February 4th deal.
The consecutive games this weekend will be the Devils second pair of 20 back-to-back contests on their 2010-11 schedule. New Jersey’s new backup goaltender Johan Hedberg could start one of the games but has not fared well in his career against either of this weekend’s opponents. Hedberg has a lifetime mark in six games (five starts) of 0-4-1 with a 4.81 goals against average against Colorado and a 3-8-2 record in 14 outings (11 starts) vs. the Bruins.
Hedberg’s most career wins have actually come against Wednesday night’s opponent, the Sabres. Hedberg is 12-2-2 lifetime against Buffalo with a goals against average of 2.60 in 17 regular season games (15 starts).
Hedberg also defeated the Sabres and Dominik Hasek in seven games while with the Penguins in the 2001 post-season.
Plus: Jason Arnott. Center scores goals in first two games in return to New Jersey and adds assist in third.
Minus: Roster squeeze. Salary cap, injuries and suspension leaves Devils with just 15 skaters in loss to Penguins.
Minus: 0-2-1 start. New Jersey’s worst since losing first four games at beginning of 2001-02 season.