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NHL Preview from The Sports Network

Saturday, January 4th (All times Eastern)

New Jersey Devils (17-17-8) at Buffalo Sabres (11-26-4), 7 p.m.

(SportsNetwork.com) - The New Jersey Devils will try to bounce back from a home loss when they visit the lowly Buffalo Sabres for Saturday's Eastern Conference clash at First Niagara Center.

New Jersey had won two straight to end December, but began the new year with Friday's 5-3 loss against the visiting Chicago Blackhawks. Patrick Sharp posted his fourth career hat trick to lead the defending Stanley Cup champions to victory.

The score was tied at 1-1 after 40 minutes before Chicago jumped out to a 4-1 lead with three goals in the first 5 1/2 minutes of the third period. The Devils were able to cut the deficit to 4-3 but Sharp scored his third goal of the game with 1:28 left to account for the final margin.

Marek Zidlicky lit the lamp twice in the third in the loss, while Andy Greene registered the other goal for New Jersey. Martin Brodeur allowed all five goals on 24 shots in the setback.

"(Chicago's) a good team," New Jersey head coach Peter DeBoer admitted. "I thought we played a real good game for long stretches tonight to give ourselves a chance."

Cory Schneider expects to get the start in net for the Devils tonight. He is 1-1-1 with a 1.64 goals against average in three career games against Buffalo.

The Sabres, who are last in the NHL with 26 points, have lost two straight in regulation, but both of those setbacks came on the road. Buffalo enters Saturday's tilt in Western New York on a four-game home winning streak and the club has gone six straight tilts without a loss (5-0-1) at First Niagara Center.

Buffalo, which is 8-12-2 as the host this season compared to a 3-14-2 road record, is kicking off a three-game homestand on Saturday. The Sabres also will welcome Carolina and Florida during the residency.

After getting blanked 3-0 in Winnipeg on Tuesday, the Sabres dropped a 4-1 decision Thursday at Minnesota. Marco Scandella and Jason Pominville potted goals 1:46 apart during a three-goal second period for the Wild, who snapped their longest losing streak of the season at six games.

Matt Ellis spoiled Backstrom's shutout bid with a late marker and Ryan Miller allowed three goals on 31 shots for the Sabres, who have lost four of their last six games.

"They know how bad they played," Sabres interim head coach Ted Nolan said. "I'm very disappointed. We have to play a lot better."

Buffalo could be without forwards Ville Leino and Drew Stafford tonight. Leino sat out the last game with a lower-body issue and is doubtful for Saturday. Stafford suffered an upper-body injury on Thursday and is questionable.

Devils forward Patrik Elias sat out Friday's game with a lower-body injury and expects to miss this evening's tilt as well.

The Devils recorded a 1-0 home overtime win when it met Buffalo back on Nov. 20. New Jersey has taken two of three and five of the last eight meetings in this series, but the Sabres have claimed the last two encounters in Western New York.

01/04 10:30:46 ET

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