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newjerseydevils.com – Mired in their longest losing streak in nearly two years, the Buffalo Sabres' first choice for their next game wouldn't be a matchup with Martin Brodeur and the first-place Devils.
That's what the struggling Sabres face, however, as they look to snap a six-game overall skid and post a rare win in New Jersey tonight (7 p.m., FSN NY, WFAN 660 AM).
A season-high six-game win streak from Dec. 12-22 appeared to signal that Buffalo (19-18-3) was poised to solidify its hold on a playoff spot in the crowded Eastern Conference. The Sabres, though, followed that run with an 0-4-2 skid, their first six-game losing streak since March 18-27, 2006.
The Sabres, who reached the conference finals the last two years, are just one point ahead of last-place Toronto in the Northeast and wouldn't make the playoffs if the season ended today.
Buffalo opened a three-game road trip Sunday and allowed three third-period goals in a 5-2 loss to Atlanta.
Thomas Vanek and Clarke MacArthur scored for the Sabres, who have totaled 10 goals during the current skid.
"We're doing things right, but we just can't score goals," defenseman Jaroslav Spacek said. "We scored two goals, and that isn't enough. We can play better."
That's certainly the case in net, as Ryan Miller gave up four goals on 29 shots Sunday after he was pulled midway through a 5-3 loss to Ottawa on Friday.
Like most of his teammates, Miller has struggled against New Jersey (23-15-3). He's 2-6-1 with a 2.88 goals-against average in nine starts against them.
Buffalo, which hasn't dropped seven straight since Dec. 4-19, 2003, is 3-10-2 with two ties against the Devils since the start of the 2002-03 season. The Sabres are 1-6-2 at New Jersey in that span.
Center Derek Roy had been one of Buffalo's most consistent producers this season, but he has managed only one point in his past eight games.
The Sabres will face Brodeur after he got a rare night off Saturday in New Jersey's 4-3 defeat at Boston.
Kevin Weekes made 21 saves for the Devils, who are 5-2-0 in their last seven games. New Jersey lost despite registering a season-high 45 shots, including a 20-1 margin in the third period.
Boston's Tim Thomas finished with 42 saves.
"Tim played great. Besides that, we played hard," New Jersey's Jamie Langenbrunner said.
Brodeur is 5-1-0 with two shutouts and a 1.32 GAA in his last six starts. He stopped 36 shots in a 3-0 victory over Philadelphia on Friday in his most recent appearance.
Brodeur is 8-1-0 with a 1.65 GAA in his last nine home starts against Buffalo. He was in net for New Jersey's 2-1 shootout win over the visiting Sabres on Dec. 28.
The Devils will be happy to get back home, where they have won four straight and nine of 10 since losing four of their first seven at the new Prudential Center.
These teams meet again Saturday in Buffalo.
with wire services
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