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Sabres try to play spoiler against Devils

by Mike G. Morreale

DEVILS (32-28-15) at SABRES (20-45-9)


Last 10: New Jersey 4-4-2; Buffalo 1-8-1

Season series: The third and final game between the New Jersey Devils and Buffalo Sabres. Matt D'Agostini scored with 8:11 remaining in the third period to give the Sabres a 2-1 victory on Jan. 4 to even the season series.

Big story: The Devils kept alive their hope of qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Monday following a 6-3 victory against the Florida Panthers at Prudential Center. The Devils trail the Columbus Blue Jackets by three points for the second of two wild-card spots in the Eastern Conference. The Devils have played one more game than the Blue Jackets.

"We needed to have this game [against Florida]," Devils goalie Cory Schneider said. "We couldn't afford to lose it. It was sort of heading south there in the second, but we found a way and didn't let it get to us. We got challenged between the second and third and responded in the third. Now it's on to the next one."

The Sabres announced Monday they have removed the interim tag from Ted Nolan and signed him to a three-year contract extension to be the full-time coach. Nolan was named interim coach Nov. 13 following the firing of coach Ron Rolston and general manager Darcy Regier.

Buffalo is 16-30-8 under Nolan after a 4-15-1 start.

"I'm really excited about going with the next step forward and helping shape this team into a very competitive team and a team that will hopefully one day battle for a championship," Nolan said.

Team Scope:

Devils: New Jersey improved to 2-0-2 since being shut out by the New York Rangers on March 22 after the victory on Monday. Travis Zajac scored the first hat trick by a Devils player this season and the first of his career. Jaromir Jagr had a goal and three assists and Ryane Clowe, who was forced to exit the game late in the second after taking a big hit along the boards, had a goal and two assists.

Goalie Cory Schneider, who stopped all 13 shots in relief of Martin Brodeur on Monday, will start for the Devils. Brodeur was pulled 6:35 into the second after yielding three goals on nine shots, marking the second time this season that Brodeur was pulled in favor of Schneider.

"I don't blame [Brodeur] for any of the first three goals; we just needed a wakeup call and didn't feel a timeout would be enough of a jolt for us," DeBoer said. "Those are tough decisions to make because he wasn't at fault. Schneider came in and shut the door, so the move had the desired effect."

Sabres: Buffalo has lost 11 of 13 games. Center Zemgus Girgensons returned to the lineup Saturday in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning after missing the past 11 games with a lower-body injury. Playing on a line with left wing Cody Hodgson and Brian Flynn, Girgensons earned 15:05 of ice time and took five shots. The line of Hodgson, Girgensons, and Flynn provided good energy against the Lightning.

"The effort was there," Nolan told the Sabres website. "You look at certain things, and I thought Cody Hodgson played a tremendous game; that was one of his better games since I've been here. The bright light of Girgensons back in the lineup, and [Rasmus] Ristolainen too. Looking forward, you're starting to see bright lights."

Who's hot: Devils forward Adam Henrique has 11 goals and 16 points in the past 16 games since the Olympic break.

Injury report: Devils defensemen Jon Merrill (face) and Bryce Salvador (undisclosed) are questionable. Clowe (upper body) is day to day and will not play. Forward Stephen Gionta (lower body) and defenseman Anton Volchenkov (lower body) are day to day. … The Sabres are without forwards Chris Stewart (ankle), Torrey Mitchell (lower body) and Zenon Konopka (back) and defensemen Alexander Sulzer (upper body) and Tyler Myers (upper body) and goalies Michal Neuvirth (lower body) and Jhonas Enroth (leg). Forward Ville Leino (head) will play.

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