Sabres-Devils Preview

The Associated Press

New Jersey coach Peter DeBoer is holding out hope that his team's worst stretch of the season is nearing an end.

The Devils look to avoid losing seven straight for the first time in 27 years Thursday night when they host the Buffalo Sabres, the only team DeBoer's squad has earned a point against in the last six games.

New Jersey (10-8-5) might have bottomed out by falling behind 4-0 in Tuesday's 5-2 home loss to a Tampa Bay team that was in the midst of its own five-game skid. The Devils, who have allowed the first goal in seven straight games, are 1-6-2 since starting 9-2-3.

They have not lost seven in a row since Jan. 24-Feb. 8, 1986.

"This is our adversity," DeBoer said. "Every team faces them at different points in the year and this is ours.

"You hope that you get to the bottom here so you start climbing up. I'm hoping this is rock bottom and we can start getting off the mat and getting on to bigger and better things.''

New Jersey's current 0-5-1 stretch has coincided with future Hall-of-Fame goaltender Martin Brodeur sidelined with a sore back. With backup Johan Hedberg starting in the last six games, the Devils have been outscored 25-11.

Despite being pulled after allowing three goals on 11 shots Tuesday, Hedberg is expected to be in goal Thursday looking to end a personal 0-6-1 stretch with a 3.98 goals-against average.

Searching for anything positive to take from Tuesday's defeat, the Devils hope to build on a third period where they scored twice and showed some life.

"We've just got to keep moving forward, keep playing, keep battling," said forward Adam Henrique, who scored for the second time in three games. "It'll come."

Henrique's other goal during that span came in a 4-3 shootout loss at Buffalo on Saturday. New Jersey's Andrei Loktionov tied the game in the third but the Devils failed on both attempts in the shootout. Hedberg stopped 20 shots and allowed Jason Pominville and Tyler Ennis to score in the shootout.

Pominville had two regulation goals in that contest for the Sabres (9-13-2), who are 0-1-1 since that victory and in the midst of a 3-1-1 stretch where each game has been decided by one goal.

Buffalo was unable to overcome three different two-goal deficits during Tuesday's 4-3 loss at Carolina. Cody Hodgson scored twice and Pominville added two assists for the Sabres, who recorded 34 of their 40 shots on goal after the first period.

"We were trying to fight back in it, and they would get one right after that," said interim Sabres coach Ron Rolston, who is 3-3-1 since replacing the fired Lindy Ruff. "We've got to do a better job of taking care of those next couple shifts after we score.''

Buffalo went 1 for 3 on the power play at Carolina, but is converting a league-low 11.5 percent (10 of 87) of those chances and is 3 of 43 on the road.

New Jersey recorded its first power-play goal in 19 opportunities Tuesday. It's 3 for 34 in the last 10 games.