Devils-Sabres Preview

While the New Jersey Devils search for ways to end their recent

struggles, the Buffalo Sabres hope they’re in the midst of finally

turning their dismal season around.

The visiting Devils look to avoid a fourth straight defeat and

keep the Sabres, who will be without leading scorer Thomas Vanek,

from a season-high third consecutive victory Saturday.

New Jersey (10-6-4) averaged 2.9 goals during its 9-2-3 start,

but has totaled nine while going 1-4-1 since. The Devils, who

allowed a goal 8 seconds into Thursday’s 3-1 loss at Winnipeg, have

been held to one goal four times in their last six games while

going 2 for 22 on the power play.

“It’s frustrating,” said forward David Clarkson, who has a

team-leading 10 goals but none in the last six contests. “We’ve got

to find a way to get out of this and start playing in the other

team’s zone a little more.”

It has not helped that the Devils have allowed opponents to go 8

of 20 on the power play during the rough stretch.

New Jersey’s three-game slide in regulation has coincided with

future Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur’s absence due to a sore back.

Brodeur, who had a 1.84 goals-against average in a 5-1-1 stretch

before the injury, isn’t eligible to come off injured reserve until


Johan Hedberg, expected to make his fourth consecutive start,

has a 4.06 GAA while losing four straight outings. He’s allowed

eight goals while dropping his last two starts against the Sabres,

but has not faced them since November 2010.

After playing their last four against Washington and Winnipeg,

the Devils may be excited to face a different opponent while trying

to avoid their second four-game skid of the season. New Jersey went

3-0-1 against the Sabres in 2011-12, scoring nine times to win its

two trips to Buffalo.

The Sabres (8-12-1) have won two in a row behind six goals after

totaling one while losing their first two games under interim coach

Ron Rolston. Nathan Gerbe scored his first two goals of the season

and Ryan Miller made 40 saves in Buffalo’s 4-3 shootout win at

Florida on Thursday.

“We’ll take it. It’s a step in the direction we need to keep

going in,” said Rolston, who was coaching Buffalo’s AHL affiliate

in Rochester when he was tabbed to replace the fired Lindy Ruff

last week.

“We still have a big ceiling in terms of room for improvement

for our team. Our mindset has to be to get back and be better again

come Saturday.”

Buffalo, however, will be without Vanek because of a nagging

upper body injury. Rolston described the injury as short-term and

hopes Vanek, who ranks third in the NHL with 27 points (12 goals

and 15 assists), will return for Sunday’s game at the New York


The Sabres went 0 for 13 on the power play in the previous four

games but converted their only chance Thursday. Buffalo also has

killed 9 of 10 penalties in its last two contests after its

previous five opponents went 5 for 16 with the man advantage.

“Ron has made some adjustments, made some changes,” forward

Jason Pominville told the NHL’s official website. “He said from the

get-go it might take some time, but we’re slowly starting to get


The Sabres are looking to get Rolston his first victory at home,

where they’ll try to avoid their first four-game skid since Feb.

13-20, 2011.