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Devils-Sabres Preview @NHLdotcom
Devils-Sabres Preview

GAME: New Jersey Devils (18-18-5) at Buffalo Sabres (27-12-2).

TIME: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. EST.

The New Jersey Devils have definitely been glad to see Patrik Elias back in the lineup.

With their star forward back, the Devils seek to match a season-best three-game winning streak when they face the Buffalo Sabres at HSBC Arena.

The Devils are 9-2 with three ties in the series since 2001-02, but have just two road wins in seven games over that span. The teams last met in Buffalo on Nov. 15, when New Jersey's Scott Gomez scored the only goal in a 4-1 loss.

But that also was minus a five-time leading scorer in Elias, who had an assist in his return Tuesday in a 3-0 win over the Florida Panthers after missing the first 39 games this season with Hepatitis A.

Elias ratcheted it up two days later, notching two goals and two assists in the Devils' 5-4 win over the Montreal Canadiens.

"I felt good," Elias said. "To be honest, I've surprised myself with how I played the last two games. The first one was harder for me. I just didn't feel as good as I did today."

The addition of the 29-year-old, whose 96 points in 2000-01 set a Devils single-season record, has boosted the production of linemates Gomez and Brian Gionta. The trio has combined for five goals and 13 points in the last two games, jump-starting an offense that has averaged just 2.93 goals per game this season.

Elias has six goals and 20 points in 28 games against Buffalo in his career. He had two goals and three assists versus the Sabres the last time he faced them in an 8-2 Devils win on Feb. 25, 2004.

Elias' return almost certainly marks the end of Alexander Mogilny's tenure in New Jersey. The team's third-leading scorer was waived Wednesday in a move that general manager and interim coach Lou Lamoriello said was "strictly a personnel decision."

Mogilny, who cleared waivers Thursday, began his career with Buffalo in 1989-90 and scored 76 goals for the Sabres in 1992-93. He signed a two-year deal in August for a reported $7 million and returned for his second stint with the Devils.

The Sabres improved to 2-1-0 on their season-high six-game homestand with a 2-1 win Thursday over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Ryan Miller made 21 saves and Jochen Hecht had a goal and an assist for Buffalo.

Miller, 5-1-0 with a 1.48 goals-against average since returning from a fractured right thumb that sidelined him for 23 games, has allowed three goals or less in all six starts.

"I think I'm the same," Miller said. "Nothing really has changed for me. It's just rewarding to get the win."

Sabres coach Lindy Ruff agreed with the 25-year-old netminder, adding that the team would still like backup goalie Martin Biron, who won a franchise-record 13 straight starts in Miller's absence, to see some action.

"Ryan's been sharp and got the nod, but we want to keep Marty going, too," Ruff said. "Right now, we'll discuss it among the coaching staff."

STANDINGS: Devils - 41 points, 3rd place, 19 PB, Atlantic Division. Sabres - 56 points, 2nd place, 3 PB, Northeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Devils - Gionta, 23 goals and 42 points; Gomez, 23 assists; Colin White, 49 PIM. Sabres - Ales Kotalik, 17 goals; Tim Connolly, 25 assists and 33 points; Maxim Afinogenov, 44 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Devils - Power play: 14.8 percent (38 for 257), 26th in NHL. Penalty killing: 82.6 percent (166 for 201), 13th. Sabres - Power play: 21.8 percent (53 for 243), 2nd (tied). Penalty killing: 84.9 percent (186 for 219), 4th.

GOALTENDERS: Devils - Martin Brodeur (16-14-3, 1 SO, 2.89 GAA); Scott Clemmensen (2-4-2, 3.83). Sabres - Miller (11-5-0, 2.29); Biron (15-5-2, 3.07).


LAST MEETING: Nov. 15; Sabres, 4-1. At Buffalo, N.Y., Biron had 21 saves to win the first of 13 straight starts and Brian Campbell scored the eventual game-winner at 7:14 of the second period.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Devils - 6-11-2 on the road; Sabres - 14-6-1 at home.

Associated Press
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