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At the Rink: Sabres at Devils

by Dan Rosen / NHL.com

NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils have a chance to string together consecutive wins for the first time since mid-November when they play the slumping Buffalo Sabres at Prudential Center on Tuesday.

The Devils did a lot right in defeating the Philadelphia Flyers 5-2 on Saturday, one of their most complete performances of the season. It won't matter if they stumble against one of the four teams below them in the NHL standings.

Buffalo is 1-7-1 in its past nine games and comes off a 6-1 loss to the New York Rangers on Saturday. The Sabres will get defenseman Tyler Myers back in the lineup after he missed the past seven games with a lower-body injury. However, forward Drew Stafford left the Sabres to be with his wife, who gave birth to a boy Tuesday.

New Jersey hasn't won two in a row since Nov. 11-14. It is 6-13-5 in 24 games since that streak.

"Step by step," Devils forward Patrik Elias said. "We got one, so let's try to get two in a row. We're going into Boston [Thursday]. They're kind of struggling too, so we have a good chance to take advantage of some of the games here and it's up to us to really feel good before we go on a tough trip in the west."

The Devils start a California road trip on Jan. 14 at the Los Angeles Kings. They have games against the Sabres, Bruins and New York Islanders this week. As Scott Gomez said following the game Saturday, they're kidding themselves if they don't play the way they did against the Flyers.

Jaromir Jagr had a hat trick, and the top line of Jagr, Gomez and Adam Henrique combined for eight points. There were four fights in the game, including two within the first 2:58.

New Jersey had a 3-0 lead at the first intermission. Elias scored a power-play goal. The Devils had 17 shots through two periods before playing a shutdown game. The Flyers were limited to 20 shots on goal, including four in the third period.

"You can't forget a couple things, obviously," Elias said. "When we play rivals like Philly or the Rangers, you always get up for those games. Second of all, that team was on the road for eight games, that was their last game on the road and they were missing their best player [Claude Giroux]. Those things, they matter. But credit to us, we jumped on them and took advantage of it. There were different things happening to get everyone going. The power play was good from the get-go. There were a couple of fights. That was good to see, emotions and everybody cared."

Elias said a big reason why the Devils were successful against the Flyers was because of the systematic changes that have been in place since Dec. 26, when general manager Lou Lamoriello fired coach Peter DeBoer, and brought in Scott Stevens to run the defense and Adam Oates to coach the forwards. Lamoriello is technically the Devils interim coach.

Elias said the forwards have more energy on offense because they're less aggressive when they don't have the puck than they were under DeBoer.

"We don't swarm anymore in our zone, we don't have everyone battling along the boards," Elias said. "We can use the plays in the middle, get open, release the pressure that way. We're a little more patient in the neutral zone. We just have one guy directing the traffic, where we want them to go. We get inside position and from that we get pretty good regroups and a pretty good transition going. And offensively, before that game we had three guys in the corner helping each other out; now we have one or two, spreading the zone a little bit, trusting the guys that they can do the job. Everybody takes their turn at different times, but with all that, when you conserve the energy that way, once you get the puck in the o-zone that's when you can use it. I like some of the changes we made."

Elias said the style the Devils are trying to play now is reminiscent of how they played around the turn of the century, when they were a perennial Stanley Cup contender.

"The main change is simply, certainly the way we're playing at center ice," Lamoriello said. "The other ends of the ice there are changes, but you need certain fundamental principles that should never change in any system, and I think intensity takes that above everything. Some of the changes really stood out the other night, but it has to be done on a consistent basis. Habits are something that are easy to gain and very difficult to break."

Here are the projected lineups:

SABRES

Matt Moulson - Zemgus Girgensons - Tyler Ennis

Nicolas Deslauriers - Mikhail Grigorenko - Chris Stewart

Cody Hodgson - Philip Varone - Brian Flynn

Cody McCormick - Tim Schaller - Patrick Kaleta

Josh Gorges - Tyler Myers

Nikita Zadorov - Rasmus Ristolainen

Mike Weber - Tyson Strachan

Jhonas Enroth

Michal Neuvirth

Scratched: Andre Benoit, Andrej Meszaros, Drew Stafford

Injured: Brian Gionta (head), Torrey Mitchell (lower body), Marcus Foligno (hand)

DEVILS

Adam Henrique - Scott Gomez - Jaromir Jagr

Patrik Elias - Travis Zajac - Mike Cammalleri

Tuomo Ruutu - Dainius Zubrus - Michael Ryder

Steve Bernier - Tim Sestito - Jordin Tootoo

Andy Greene - Adam Larsson

Mark Fraser - Marek Zidlicky

Seth Helgeson - Jon Merrill

Cory Schneider

Keith Kinkaid

Scratched: None

Injured: Jacob Josefson (illness), Peter Harrold (head), Bryce Salvador (lower body), Ryane Clowe (concussion), Damon Severson (ankle), Martin Havlat (illness), Stephen Gionta (broken hand), Eric Gelinas (illness)

Status report: Sabres coach Ted Nolan said McCormick will be a game-time decision. If he can't play, the Sabres will have to use 11 forwards and seven defensemen because Stafford is not with the team. No decision will be made until after warm-ups. … Bernier returns to the Devils lineup after missing the past two games with a hip injury. … Josefson and Harrold skated Tuesday morning, but neither is ready to play yet. Josefson will miss his fifth straight game; Harrold will miss his second in a row. … Lamoriello said Havlat skated on his own Tuesday and should be ready to practice with the team Wednesday. He said Gelinas is still sick. … Varone and Flynn were recalled from Rochester of the American Hockey League on Monday and will be in the lineup for the Sabres. Varone will be making his season debut. He had 29 points to lead Rochester at the time of his recall.

Who's hot: Jagr has four goals and an assist in his past four games after going the previous five games without a point. … Gomez has four points in the past two games.

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