DEVILS (15-14-9) at SABRES (15-17-6)
Last 10: New Jersey 2-5-3, Buffalo 5-3-2
Season series: This is the third and final meeting. The first two required shootouts, with each club earning a victory.
Big Story: After a fantastic start to the season, the New Jersey Devils are now fighting for their playoff lives. They are 0-3-3 since Ilya Kovalchuk suffered a shoulder injury and have fallen into 10th place in the Eastern Conference.
"We're repeating ourselves here for the past few games," Devils forward Patrik Elias said after Saturday’s 2-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs at Prudential Center. "You try to stay up, and again the work ethic was there. We created a lot of good chances. It's tough to win with one or not scoring any goals."
Buffalo, meanwhile, has won back-to-back games as it aims to remain in the playoff hunt. However, the Sabres enter Sunday’s action six points behind the eighth-place New York Islanders.
Devils: New Jersey’s offensive struggles continued Saturday, as David Clarkson spoiled James Reimer’s shutout bid at 11:37 of the third period. It marked the third straight game the Devils – who went 0-for-5 on the power play against the Maple Leafs -- have scored one or fewer goals; they were shut out by the Boston Bruins at TD Garden on Thursday.
"Tonight, for me, it's the power play," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "We've got to cash in on the power play tonight. That's probably our first 5-on-3 in two months; you've got to make hay this time of year when you get the table set like that for you."
Sabres: Buffalo made it two in a row Friday, when it earned a 4-2 victory against the Ottawa Senators at First Niagara Center. It was another solid effort by Ron Rolston’s club after it ended the Pittsburgh Penguins’ winning streak at 15 games with an impressive 4-1 victory at Consol Energy Center on Wednesday.
Indeed, the Sabres will continue to press on without Jason Pominville, as the former captain was dealt to the Minnesota Wild just hours before Buffalo’s win at Pittsburgh.
"There's no indication of that even being said in this room," forward Steve Ott said of a potential rebuild. "We really want to fight. There's a lot to play for in this dressing room and we've got 10 games left to prove that."
Who's hot: Ott has scored in back-to-back games for Buffalo, while goaltender Ryan Miller has stopped 54 of 57 shots he’s faced in the past two contests.
Injury report: Besides Kovalchuk, the Devils are also expected to be without forward Tom Kostopoulos, who was knocked out during a fight with Islanders forward Matt Martin last Monday. … Buffalo's leading scorer, Thomas Vanek, has missed the past five games with an upper-body injury. Ville Leino (upper body) and Alexander Sulzer (knee) are also out.
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