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Devils get right back at it, visit Sabres

by Mike Battaglino

DEVILS (17-17-8) at SABRES (11-26-4)


Last 10: New Jersey 5-3-2; Buffalo 4-4-2

Season series: Steve Bernier scored with 41 seconds to go in overtime to give the New Jersey Devils a 1-0 win against the Buffalo Sabres on Nov. 30. Cory Schneider made 15 saves for his second shutout with the Devils.

Big story: The Devils go from the top of the NHL standings to the bottom in less than 24 hours.

After hanging with the League-best Chicago Blackhawks for two periods of what became a 5-3 loss Saturday at Prudential Center, New Jersey travels to face the Sabres clinging to striking distance of third place in the Metropolitan Division.

"Regardless of who we're playing tomorrow or the next day or the next, it's a tight race, and we're on the second half of the season now, so you begin to lose the ability to say, 'OK, we've got a couple more games, we'll catch up, we'll catch up,'" Devils forward Ryan Carter told MSG Network on Friday. "The reality is, we're losing games (off the schedule) ... and every point is valuable and we've got to find a way to win 'em."

New Jersey failed to go two games over .500 for the first time this season.

Team Scope:

Devils: Marek Zidlicky scored twice Friday, and Andy Greene once, giving the defensemen seven goals each this season. They are tied for third on the team in scoring with 21 points (behind forwards Jaromir Jagr, 34 and Patrik Elias, 25).

"It's nice offensively; we have to tighten up a little defensively though, because we gave up too much too," coach Peter DeBoer said. "You can't just look at the offensive numbers, but they definitely contribute."

Schneider will start after Martin Brodeur played Friday.

Sabres: Buffalo claimed center Zenon Konopka off waivers from the Minnesota Wild on Friday.

Konopka has the best faceoff percentage in the NHL among players who have taken at least 200 this season (.657, 157-82). Buffalo ranks 27th as a team (.466).

"He competes hard. He'll do anything for the team. He's a great team guy. He always has your back," said forward Matt Moulson, a teammate of Konopka with the New York Islanders. "He takes great pride in his faceoffs and I know that's something he works on all the time. That's something we could definitely use. He'll be a welcome addition."

Who's hot: Devils forward Adam Henrique has five points in a four-game streak. ... Sabres goalie Ryan Miller is on 6-3-1 run, having not allowed more than three goals in any of those 10 games, nor in 13 in a row.

Injury report: Carter (lower body) played Friday for the first time since Nov. 30. Elias (upper body) did not play after being injured Tuesday. Defenseman Anton Volchenkov (undisclosed) missed his third game in a row. Forward Damien Brunner (knee) and defensemen Peter Harrold (foot) and Adam Larsson (lower body) are out. ... Sabres forward Drew Stafford (upper body), injured Thursday, could be out "a little while," interim coach Ted Nolan said. Forward Ville Leino (lower body) is "pretty close." Forwards Cody Hodgson (left wrist, thumb) and Cody McCormick (upper body), and defenseman Henrik Tallinder (upper body) skated before practice Friday, but along with forward Kevin Porter (leg), are at least a week from returning.

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