Sabres-Devils Preview

The New Jersey Devils and Buffalo Sabres are both assured of

opening a first-round playoff series at home later this week. The

chance to open a potential Eastern Conference semifinals series on

home ice, however, is still up for grabs.

Separated by just one point, the Devils and Sabres meet Sunday

at the Prudential Center with second place in the East on the

line.

Heading into the final game of the regular season, Atlantic

Division champion New Jersey (47-27-7) is in second in the

conference with 101 points, just ahead of Northeast-winning

Buffalo.

The Devils can remain in that position by earning at least one

point, but would switch places with the Sabres (45-26-10) with a

regulation loss. The advantage of clinching the second seed means

automatic home-ice advantage in a possible semifinals series.

“It gives you the opportunity, if you pass the first round, to

be home again,” said New Jersey goaltender Martin Brodeur. “It’s

always important to have as many games as possible in your own

building. You play all year to position yourself. It’s available to

us with a win.”

The Devils are 26-10-4 at home this season, while the Sabres are

20-16-4 on the road.

These teams haven’t met since the Sabres’ 2-1 shootout win on

Jan. 27 in Buffalo. The Sabres are 2-1-0 against the Devils this

season, and has outscored New Jersey 10-3 in winning all three

meetings at the Prudential Center since it opened last season.

Brodeur has been started all three games against the Sabres this

season, going 1-1-1 with a 1.62 goals-against average and one

shutout.

Buffalo’s Ryan Miller has also been between the pipes for all

three meetings, posting a 1.62 GAA. He is 2-0-2 with a 0.72 GAA and

one shutout in his last four games in New Jersey.

Both teams enter this crucial game off impressive showings.

New Jersey defeated the New York Islanders 7-1 on Saturday to

clinch the Atlantic for the second straight season and fourth time

in five years. Patrik Elias scored twice and Travis Zajac matched

his career high with three assists in the Devils’ biggest offensive

output of the season and largest margin of victory.

“It was nice to get a lot of scoring from a lot of different

people,” said Zach Parise, who added his team-leading 38th goal.

“All the lines played well, generating offense. Everyone knows, if

you want to go far in the playoffs, that’s what you need.”

That was more than enough for Brodeur, as he stopped 18 shots to

notch the 601st victory of his career. The future Hall of Famer is

3-1-2 with a 0.98 GAA and two shutouts in six games since March

30.

Buffalo defeated Ottawa 5-2 on Saturday behind a career-best

four goals from Thomas Vanek, who returned after sitting out six

games with a lower body injury.

“It was a good game for us overall and it’s nice for me to be

back and capitalize on my opportunities,” said Vanek, who moved

past two teammates and now leads the team with 27 goals.

Miller turned away 28 shots to win his 41st game, breaking the

franchise record for single-season victories he set in 2006-07.

“That was a good example of the way we can play,” Miller said.

“It was important for us to get this win.”