Devils, Maple Leafs looking to get right
The New Jersey Devils will play their first home game of the new year Thursday against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Devils hope the return home after a 1-3-0 road trip also will bring a return to the form that had them finish 2018 with three straight wins, two at home.
New Jersey scored early in the first period Tuesday, then looked like a team that was eager to return home as they lost 5-1 to the Buffalo Sabres, allowing five second-period goals
"If you look at every aspect -- the speed, the puck management, the puck battles -- it wasn't good enough to give ourselves a chance to win the game," Devils coach John Hynes said.
The Maple Leafs (27-13-2) are not entirely happy, either, after losing 4-0 to the Nashville Predators on Monday night. It was the second time in their past four home games that the Maple Leafs have lost 4-0, with the New York Islanders doing the honors Dec. 29.
"I thought we got a lesson from a veteran team here (Monday)," Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said.
"I thought, really in the third period in particular, I didn't know if we thought we were going to come out and race around. (Nashville) just stayed patient and were right. They were heavy on the puck, heavy on their sticks, detailed, blocked shots, competed. I liked their game. I liked our game through two ... and then in the third period it was men and boys."
The Devils (16-19-7) have gone from failing to close out games in the third period to having games get away from them in the second period. The game Tuesday in Buffalo was an example. So was the loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on Sunday.
The Devils have been outscored 51-42 in the second period this season.
"It seems different but feels the same every time," said Devils defenseman and captain Andy Greene.
"It felt like we weren't winning enough battles and we weren't coming clean out of our zone. We were icing it; we were not winning the board battles; the defensemen weren't making good enough plays up there and we were just chasing it."
The Maple Leafs, meanwhile, will be looking for ways to make their power play more successful.
"I think it's been hit-and-miss and it hasn't been good enough," Babcock said. "With the players we have, it can be better. We've got to do a better job."
The Devils expect to again be without left winger Taylor Hall (lower body). Hall, who has 11 goals and 26 assists, has missed the past seven games and is listed as day-to-day.
The Maple Leafs are close to having goaltender Frederik Andersen (groin) and left winger Zach Hyman (sprained ankle) back in the lineup.
Hyman could play Thursday after missing eight games. Babcock indicated that Andersen, who has missed six games, might not return until Monday, when the Maple Leafs play the Colorado Avalanche, although the goaltender said he is looking to play Saturday against the Boston Bruins.
Michael Hutchinson has started the past three games in goal for the Maple Leafs after backup goalie Garret Sparks suffered a concussion.
The Maple Leafs defeated the Devils 7-2 on Dec. 20 in New Jersey and 6-1 on Nov. 9 at Toronto.
--Field Level Media
Updated January 9, 2019