Devils-Sabres Preview


The New Jersey Devils dropped consecutive home games after a five-game winning streak that helped put them into the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Maybe hitting the road will get them back on track.

New Jersey seeks its fifth straight win away from home when it faces the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night.

The Devils (31-20-4) have gone 5-1-2 over their last eight games and enter this matchup three points behind Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, which are tied for fourth place in the East.

Their winning streak came to an end with a 4-3 shootout loss to St. Louis on Thursday before they fell 3-1 to Florida on Saturday.

Coach Peter DeBoer said New Jersey's stretch won't get any easier this week facing teams battling to make the playoffs.

The Sabres (24-25-6) are eight points behind eighth-place Toronto in the East.

"They're playing for their life, as are the other teams we're playing this week - Anaheim and Montreal, Toronto," DeBoer told the team's official website. "It's not necessarily the opponent as much as the desperation level. And right now, for me, the desperation level doesn't get any higher than two weeks prior to the trade deadline."

Each of those contests DeBoer highlighted with the exception of Anaheim will be away from home, though that may not be a problem for the Devils, who have outscored opponents 11-6 in winning four consecutive road games.

Patrik Elias, Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise each scored in a 5-3 victory in Buffalo on Nov. 16, though the Sabres have played well at home of late.

Buffalo - 5-1-1 in its last seven overall - fell 2-1 to Tampa Bay at First Niagara Center on Saturday, ending a 10-game home stretch in which it earned at least one point (6-0-4). The Sabres are aware they'll be in for a tough matchup with the Devils, whom they beat 2-1 in a shootout in the most recent meeting Jan. 24.

"They like to clog up things in the neural zone and they do a good job in the 'D' zone trying to surround the puck with a lot of guys," said Derek Roy, who hasn't recorded a point in three meetings this season. "We were trying to work on spreading the ice out, getting guys up high, trying to create some confusion in the offensive zone."

Coach Lindy Ruff, who watched his third straight game from the press box Saturday while recovering from broken ribs, said Buffalo needs to play hard for a full game if it expects to make the playoffs.

"We played one period, but one period is not good enough," said Ruff, who isn't sure if he'll be on the bench Tuesday.

Ryan Miller made 26 saves and lost in regulation for the first time in seven starts after going 5-0-1 with a 1.11 goals-against average.

Miller has allowed one or no goals in five of his last six starts versus the Devils, going 4-1-1 with a 1.14 GAA.

DeBoer said Martin Brodeur, 5-1-2 with a 1.27 GAA in his last nine appearances against the Sabres, will get the start in net.

Elias has two goals and three assists versus Buffalo this season, including two assists in a 3-1 win Dec. 28.