NEWARK, N.J. -- Center Stephen Gionta will return to the lineup for the first time in seven weeks when the New Jersey Devils play the Buffalo Sabres at Prudential Center on Tuesday.
Gionta, who has been out with a fractured left hand, participated in the Devils full practice on Monday and was again on the ice for the morning skate on Tuesday. One incentive to returning to the lineup against the Sabres is having the opportunity to play against his older brother, Brian Gionta.
"It's been a long wait, but I'm excited to get back and the opponent we're playing tonight has extra meaning," Stephen Gionta said. "This is probably the fourth or fifth time we've played against each other and each time it's pretty special, so it's a cool thing to do and to experience. Once the game starts though, it's just another opponent, but it's something fun to experience."
Gionta sustained his injury on Dec. 29 after blocking a shot from Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang in the second period of a 3-1 victory.
"The one thing we wanted to make sure of was that there were no issues moving forward," Gionta said. "I've had no setback the past two days and I think we took that road carefully and we're set to go."
The Devils begin a six-game homestand coming off consecutive 3-1 road losses against the Chicago Blackhawks and Nashville Predators. The Devils went 4-0-1 during a previous five-game homestand from Jan. 28-Feb. 6. New Jersey has equaled a season-high four straight defeats and has been outscored 14-5 over that stretch. The Devils trail the Boston Bruins by 13 points for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference with 26 games remaining.
"It's always difficult watching the team play whether they're winning or losing," Gionta said. "When you're on the sidelines it's tough. You want to be out there with the guys in the middle of it all, helping to contribute in any way."
In an effort to jumpstart his offense, Devils coach Lou Lamoriello will likely return Mike Cammalleri to his normal position at left wing with center Travis Zajac and right wing Jordin Tootoo. Patrik Elias will center Adam Henrique and Steve Bernier. Gionta will play right wing with center Jacob Josefson and left wing Dainius Zubrus.
Cory Schneider is expected to start his fourth straight game, which will be his NHL-leading 49th start of the season. Schneider is 7-4-1 in his past 12 decisions and has a 1.86 goals-against average and .940 save percentage in 13 games in 2015.
The Sabres, 2-8-0 in their past 10 games, are coming off consecutive 2-1 home losses to the Ottawa Senators and Philadelphia Flyers. In the loss to the Flyers on Sunday, newly acquired defenseman Zach Bogosian had 11 hits and two blocked shots in 24:49 of ice time. It was the highest time on ice in a Sabres debut since defenseman Jaroslav Spacek played 22:58 against the Carolina Hurricanes on Oct. 4, 2006.
"I like to play that style; you try to play a certain style every night and that's how I've approached my career," Bogosian said. "As far as minutes go, the more you get out there the more comfortable you're going to get. So if I'm getting some more minutes than I did in Winnipeg, then that's a good thing."
Bogosian was glad to earn more time on the power play (2:46) and penalty kill (2:41) as well in his first game with the Sabres.
"I got more special teams time [on Sunday] than the last 15 games in Winnipeg," he said. "I'm looking forward to the new challenge and new role. It's something I've always wanted."
Bogosian was part of the blockbuster trade with the Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday. The Sabres also received forward Evander Kane and goaltending prospect Jason Kasdorf in exchange for Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford, two prospects (Joel Armia and Brendan Lemieux) and a first-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft. Kane will miss the remainder of the season after shoulder surgery.
Here are the projected line combinations:
Chris Stewart – Zemgus Girgensons – Tyler Ennis
Matt Moulson – Torrey Mitchell – Brian Gionta
Marcus Foligno – Brian Flynn – Nicolas Deslauriers
Johan Larsson – Matt Ellis – Cody Hodgson
Andre Benoit – Zach Bogosian
Nikita Zadorov – Rasmus Ristolainen
Mike Weber – Andrej Meszaros
Scratched: Tyson Strachan
Injured: Josh Gorges (lower body), Patrick Kaleta (lower body), Cody McCormick (blood clots), Evander Kane (shoulder)
Mike Cammalleri - Travis Zajac - Jordin Tootoo
Adam Henrique - Patrik Elias - Steve Bernier
Tuomo Ruutu - Scott Gomez - Jaromir Jagr
Dainius Zubrus - Jacob Josefson - Stephen Gionta
Andy Greene - Adam Larsson
Jon Merrill - Marek Zidlicky
Eric Gelinas - Peter Harrold
Scratched: Michael Ryder, Mark Fraser, Martin Havlat
Injured: Damon Severson (fractured left ankle), Bryce Salvador (back), Ryane Clowe (suspected concussion)
Status report: Sabres coach Ted Nolan said Monday that Kaleta required minor surgery and will miss 4-6 weeks. … The injury to Gorges has allowed Benoit to play a bigger role with the Sabres along the back end. He was paired with Bogosian on Sunday against the Flyers.
Who's hot: Stewart has two goals and six points in the past seven games. … Bernier has seven goals in the past 12 games.