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Elias returns to Devils lineup against Sabres

Veteran forward sidelined since Dec. 19 with right knee injury

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

SABRES (33-35-11) at DEVILS (37-34-8)

TV: 7 p.m. ET; BELL TV, MSG-B, MSG+, NHL.TV

NEWARK, N.J. -- Left wing Patrik Elias will be in the lineup for the first time in four months when the New Jersey Devils play against the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday at Prudential Center.

Elias, 39, had been out since Dec. 19 with a right knee injury. He is in the final season of a three-year contract he signed July 4, 2013 and can become an unrestricted free agent July 1. There's a chance he could be playing his final games with the Devils.

"I'm just looking forward to playing, having the emotions and just being out there in front of the fans, with the guys and in different situations and enjoying the situation," Elias said. "I'm sure there will be people happy to see me back and I'm one of those people. We'll see what the future holds. There were a few times I thought I might not be good enough to jump in again but the last three weeks I started to feel better."

Elias will begin the game with center Jacob Josefson and right wing Mike Sislo.

Elias has one goal and four assists in 13 games this season. He missed the first 20 games after hurting his knee in training camp. He returned to the lineup Nov. 25 but has missed the past 46 games. He had arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus and clean loose cartilage in his right knee Jan. 12.

Elias was a second-round pick (No. 51) by the Devils in the 1994 NHL Draft and has spent his entire 17-season NHL career in New Jersey. He's the Devils' regular-season leader in goals (407), assists (615) and points (1,022); he's the only player to score at least 1,000 points with the Devils. 

"I'm excited to see him come back and I think he's a player we feel can help our team," Devils coach John Hynes said. "He's worked really hard to get back and it'll be good to see him [Tuesday]."

Elias needs to play 46 games to tie defenseman Ken Daneyko for the most in Devils history with 1,283. He can tie goaltender Martin Brodeur (1,259) for second if he plays 22 more games.

Buffalo forwards Ryan O'Reilly and Jack Eichel, who each missed practice Monday, were back Tuesday taking regular shifts. Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said Brian Gionta (flu), who didn't practice Tuesday, and O'Reilly (undisclosed) will be game-time decisions. Eichel is expected to play.

"I am ready to go but will talk with the coaching staff," O'Reilly said. "It shouldn't be an issue. I feel good and hopefully they agree."

Buffalo ended a nine-game losing streak against the New York Rangers on Saturday and improved to 18-13-7 in the second half of the season with three regular-season games remaining. The Sabres are 17-17-5 on the road this season. Their record on the road the two previous seasons was 17-59-6.

"We've come a long way," Bylsma said. "Maybe I underestimated the distance we had to travel to get to that mentality where we thought we could win games. We know where we are in the standings and the disappointment of not being in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but we also feel we've shown we can beat playoff teams, and win on the road. We've got that in our team."

Here are the projected lineups:

SABRES

Zemgus Girgensons - Ryan O'Reilly - Hudson Fasching

Nicolas Deslauriers - Jack Eichel - Sam Reinhart

Marcus Foligno - Johan Larsson - Brian Gionta

Cal O'Reilly - David Legwand - Matt Moulson

Josh Gorges - Rasmus Ristolainen

Jake McCabe - Zach Bogosian

Mark Pysyk - Casey Nelson

Chad Johnson

Linus Ullmark

Injured: Robin Lehner (ankle), Tyler Ennis (concussion), Evander Kane (upper body), Cody McCormick (illness), Cody Franson (concussion)

Scratched: Carlo Colaiacovo, Jason Kasdorf

DEVILS

Tyler Kennedy - Adam Henrique - Devante Smith-Pelly

Reid Boucher - Travis Zajac - Kyle Palmieri

Patrik Elias - Jacob Josefson - Mike Sislo

Sergey Kalinin - Stephen Gionta - Blake Pietila

Andy Greene - Adam Larsson

David Schlemko - Damon Severson

John Moore - Vojtech Mozik

Cory Schneider

Keith Kinkaid

Injured: Jon Merrill (shoulder), Mike Cammalleri (inflamed tendon right hand), Jordin Tootoo (right wrist surgery), Jiri Tlusty (right wrist surgery)

Scratched: Tuomo Ruutu, Bobby Farnham, David Warsofsky, Joseph Blandisi

Status report: The Sabres recalled right wing Justin Bailey on an emergency basis in case O'Reilly or Gionta are unable to play. This marks the third time this season Bailey has been recalled from Rochester of the American Hockey League. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound forward has 19 goals and 43 points in 64 games in Rochester this season. "We kind of joked about it and thought about keeping him in Rochester so that he could score 20, but he said he'd rather be here," Bylsma said. … The Devils returned defenseman Seth Helgeson to Albany on Monday. … Blandisi will be a healthy scratch with Elias returning to the lineup.

Who's hot: McGinn has three goals and six points in his past six games. … Palmieri has four goals and nine points in his past nine games.

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