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Devils hope to end slide against Sabres

by Mike G. Morreale

SABRES (9-13-2) at DEVILS (10-8-5)


Last 10: Sabres 4-5-1, Devils 2-6-2

Season series: This is the second meeting in six days between the teams -- the Sabres scored a 4-3 shootout decision March 2 at First Niagara Center. The clubs will meet one more time in the regular season -- April 7 in Buffalo.

Big story: Since Ron Rolston took over as interim coach of the Sabres on Feb. 20, the team has gone 3-3-1, so the jury remains out on whether or not the situation gets turned around. The Sabres are 13th in the Eastern Conference with 20 points, four behind the eighth-seeded New York Rangers. The Devils have are winless in six straight (0-5-1) for the first time since 2010, and sit seventh in the East with 25 points.

Team Scope:

Sabres: Thomas Vanek returned to Buffalo's lineup Tuesday in a loss to the Carolina Hurricanes after sitting out the previous two games with an upper-body injury. The team's leading scorer logged 17:25 of ice time, had one assist and a plus-1 rating in a 4-3 loss. The team was on a 3-0-1 run before the loss to the Hurricanes. Vanek resumed his role at left wing on the top line, with center Cody Hodgson and right wing Jason Pominville.

"It just didn't get any better," Vanek told the Buffalo News of his injury. "Now I feel at the point where I can deal with the pain and be able to play."

Devils: Coach Peter DeBoer replaced starting goalie Johan Hedberg with Keith Kinkaid midway through the second period after Hedberg allowed three goals on 11 shots in an eventual 5-2 home loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday. Kinkaid made 12 saves on 13 shots -- the Lightning scored an empty-net goal -- in his NHL debut. At 23 years old, he was the youngest goaltender to play for the Devils since J.F. Damphousse on Jan. 24, 2002 at Atlanta (4-2 loss).

"I made a [goalie] change to try and kick start our team … it's a tool we've used before," DeBoer said. "We're busy this week and we'll need [Hedberg] back on Thursday [against Buffalo]. Kinkaid stepped in and gave us some energy and did a nice job."

Martin Brodeur remains sidelined with back soreness.

Who's hot: Sabres goalie Ryan Miller, who is expected to make his 15th straight start, currently leads the League in saves (661), shots faced (723) and minutes played (1,313), and is tied for first in games played (22) with Philadelphia's Ilya Bryzgalov. … Since returning from an upper-body injury that sidelined him four games, Ryan Carter has recorded a point in three straight games (four assists).

Injury report: The Devils are without forward Dainius Zubrus (wrist) and Brodeur (back soreness). … Defenseman Jordan Leopold, who is dealing with a hand injury, has missed the past seven games and remains doubtful for the Sabres. Forward Patrick Kaleta will be serving the second of a five-game suspension for his hit on Rangers forward Brad Richards on March 3.

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