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Devils looking to avoid longest skid in 27 years

by Mike G. Morreale /

NEWARK, N.J. -- One day after New Jersey Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello did a little roster tinkering, his team was back on the ice making preparations for the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday at Prudential Center.

The Devils play host to the Sabres (MSG-B, MSG PLUS) at 7 p.m. ET.

Wednesday, Lamoriello assigned goalie Keith Kinkaid and forward Cam Janssen to Albany of the American Hockey League and recalled goalie Jeff Frazee. The GM then claimed forward Tom Kostopoulos off waivers from the Pittsburgh Penguins and said the 6-foot, 197-pound right wing would be in the lineup against the Sabres.

Lamoriello then informed the media that goalie Martin Brodeur likely would miss the next three games with back soreness.

The Devils' two opponents after the Sabres are the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday and Winnipeg Jets on Sunday. New Jersey will then host the Philadelphia Flyers in the first of a home-and-home set on Wednesday.

Against the Sabres on Thursday, the Devils will be looking to snap a six-game losing streak (0-5-1), during which they've been outscored, 25-14. The last time the organization dropped seven straight was during the 1985-86 season.

Devils coach Peter DeBoer will start Johan Hedberg between the pipes against the Sabres and Frazee will serve as his backup. Hedberg is 0-6-1 in his past seven starts for the Devils. In the absence of Brodeur the past five games, Hedberg has allowed 16 goals, including 13 at even strength. Brodeur pulled himself out of pregame warm-ups Feb. 24 against the Jets and was placed on injured reserve.

"Everyone wants to win and play their best for Johan," DeBoer said. "He's that kind of guy. He's one of the leaders in the dressing room and no one works harder than him or prepares better than him. I think, absolutely, the thoughts of the group are getting a win for him. Again, sitting in that position [as goalie], a lot of times you take the brunt of the blame and a lot of times, unnecessarily."

Devils forward David Clarkson agrees.

"From all the years I've been here, Moose is one of the hardest-working goalies and he's done fantastic job all season," Clarkson said. "I think it's time we start bearing down a little bit. I don't think Moose has played bad at all; we've left him hanging. We must give him a chance to win tonight."

Frazee, 25, has twice served as a backup for the Devils but has never played in an NHL game.

Kostopoulos will join Ryan Carter and Stephen Gionta on the team's fourth line against the Sabres. Additionally, DeBoer will replace defenseman Adam Larsson with Peter Harrold, who will be paired with Andy Greene. Harrold will be making his second appearance in the lineup for the Devils this season; he debuted Feb. 2 against the Penguins and finished with a minus-1 rating.

"I just want to provide strong consistent play … physical play but nothing flashy," Kostopoulos said. "Just getting pucks in and being strong along the wall, bringing some energy and consistency every night."

Anton Volchenkov returns to the lineup after sitting out the past four games as a healthy scratch. He'll replace Mark Fayne.

Kostopoulos, 34, was taken by the Penguins in the seventh round of the 1999 NHL Draft and broke in with the team during the 2001-02 season. He also played for the Los Angeles Kings, Montreal Canadiens, Carolina Hurricanes and Calgary Flames, and has 60 goals, 156 points and 705 penalty minutes in 615 games.

Here are the probable line combinations for the Devils on Thursday:

Alexei Ponikarovsky - Travis Zajac - Ilya Kovalchuk

Patrik Elias - Adam Henrique - David Clarkson

Stefan Matteau - Andrei Loktionov - Steve Bernier

Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Tom Kostopoulos

Bryce Salvador - Anton Volchenkov

Andy Greene - Peter Harrold

Henrik Tallinder - Marek Zidlicky

Johan Hedberg

Jeff Frazee

Injured: Dainius Zubrus, Martin Brodeur

Scratched: Krystofer Barch, Adam Larsson, Mark Fayne


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