NEWARK, N.J. — When a game between teams features a bit of feistiness, the tendency is to build up the drama for the rematch. It’s time to do it again.
The Buffalo Sabres and New Jersey Devils, who met just five days ago, resume their rivalry tonight in Prudential Center. The first game featured a fight just 27 seconds in, a scuffle at the end of overtime and trash-talking following the shootout.
Though most return matches fizzle in terms of emotion, two of the Sabres’ protagonists feel this one might carry some heat.
“It was a hard-fought game, and tempers were flaring,” center Tyler Ennis said Wednesday. “We’re competitive guys, so I expect another hard game.”
Ennis earned a roughing penalty at the final buzzer in Buffalo after a scrap with the Devils’ Adam Henrique. Ennis shot the puck toward the New Jersey net as the horn blew, and Henrique, who was near the line of fire, took exception.
Minutes later, Ryan Miller riled up Henrique again. The Sabres goaltender ended the 4-3 shootout victory with a glove save on Henrique, then celebrated and shouted. Miller stretched out his glove arm, swatted the puck with a baseball swing and yelled toward Henrique. The Devils’ second-year player jawed back before heading to the dressing room.
“I just didn’t think going after Tyler Ennis is any proof that you’re a tough guy,” Miller said. “The kid’s scrappy, but it probably went a little further than it needed to go.
“Henrique’s a good player. I’d like to see both teams get into it emotionally, and I think you’ll see more of that. We’re in position where we have to win, they have to win, so I expect a challenging game.”
Ennis could use a spark after a rough outing Tuesday.
Carolina captain Eric Staal and wingers Alexander Semin and Jiri Tlusty dropped a minus-3 on Ennis during the Hurricanes’ 4-3 victory. Ennis fell to minus-6 against the Hurricanes in three meetings this season, a big reason he’s minus-5 on the year despite seven goals and 17 points in 24 games.
“Tough games against Carolina, it seems,” Ennis said. “They’re a good team. They play fast. It’s too bad I couldn’t have had a better game, but you’ve got to move forward and have a good one against New Jersey.”
Ennis has two goals and four points in the seven games since Ron Rolston replaced Lindy Ruff, and the interim coach likes what the center brings despite the setback in Carolina.
“There’s a lot of centers in this league that struggle with Staal,” Rolston said. “I like Tyler. Tyler cares a lot about his game. You can just see his details are getting better. He wants to help the team win in any way we can, and he’s willing to do what it takes. He’s got a lot of talent, so that’s a good combination.”
Miller, meanwhile, practiced lightly in Prudential Center, signaling he’ll likely get his 15th straight start in net tonight. He wants a better effort in front of the Buffalo net.
The Sabres took several steps back against Carolina after putting together a 3-0-1 run. They let the Hurricanes dominate the first period and needed to scramble to make it close.
“I’m not happy with the game, honestly,” Miller said. “I think we have to have an answer to that first period. I don’t think we can let teams dictate if we’re going to have a chance here. We have to go out and control the game.
“The Rangers game was a good example of just playing a good, smart road game,” Miller said of the 3-2 shootout loss Sunday that the Sabres commanded until Patrick Kaleta’s third-period boarding major against Brad Richards. “We kept the crowd out of it, kept them out of it emotionally until late in the third period when they got the power-play opportunities, which is really the only way they were going to get back in that game.
“But with the Carolina game, we kind of went the other direction. We hesitated and we chased the puck a little too much. Hopefully, we see the contrast between the two games and how one game gave us a better opportunity to get points than the other.”
The Devils are just 1-6-2 in their last nine games, so getting points is Rolston’s main objective. The carryover of emotions is an afterthought.
“The focus is always for teams now accumulating as many points as possible,” he said. “I think that you’ll see two teams that are playing hard, but I don’t think you’ll see anyone going over the top.”