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Sabres and Devils battle for No. 2 seed in East

by Mike G. Morreale

SABRES (45-26-10) at DEVILS (47-27-7)

Last 10 -- Buffalo 6-4-0; New Jersey 5-2-3

Season series -- This is the fourth meeting and season finale for both teams. The road team won the first two before the Sabres scored a 2-1 shootout victory at HSBC Arena on Jan. 27. Jochen Hecht and Jason Pominville scored in the shootout for the Sabres and Ryan Miller stopped attempts by Zach Parise and Jamie Langenbrunner to secure the triumph.

Big story -- The Devils secured their ninth Atlantic Division title on Saturday and hope to earn the second seed in the Eastern Conference with a victory over the Northeast Division-champion Sabres. New Jersey is a point ahead of Buffalo in the standings and needs only to get a point because it owns the tiebreaker by virtue of having won more games. The Sabres, who can't drop lower than third in the East, have to win in regulation to finish second.

Team Scope

-- Thomas Vanek returned to the lineup after sitting out six games with a lower-body injury and scored four goals to lead Buffalo to a 5-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Saturday. Derek Roy scored his fourth goal in five games and goalie Ryan Miller turned aside 28 shots for his 41st win.

Devils -- New Jersey locked up the Atlantic with a 7-1 demolition of the New York Islanders on Saturday night while Pittsburgh lost 1-0 at Atlanta. Patrick Elias scored twice and five other players had a goal. Martin Brodeur made 18 saves for his League-high 44th victory.

"(With all the injuries we had earlier in the season) you would think it would be impossible to win the Atlantic Division, but there are guys who really played great at that moment," coach Jacques Lemaire said. "Travis (Zajac), Zach (Parise) and Jamie (Langenbrunner) -- they carried the team and the scoring at that time. And our checkers did their part, too."

Who's hot -- Buffalo center Derek Roy has for 7 goals and 12 points in the past eight games and has 23 points, including 9 goals, in the last 19.

Injury report -- The Sabres are without forwards Tim Connolly (foot), Jochen Hecht (upper body) and Patrick Kaleta (hand). New Jersey forward Andrew Peters, out since March 25 with a scratched eye, is doubtful.

Stat pack -- Brodeur is 5-1-2 in his last eight games against the Sabres. He has allowed just six goals in his last six games overall.

Puck drop -- "We want to be playing well come playoff time," Devils defenseman Mike Mottau said after the win over the Islanders. "That was one of our goals at the start of the year, to finish as high as possible, and that would mean winning the Atlantic in this case. As far as we're concerned in here, we're looking for results now and for a good feeling going into the playoffs."

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