Carter Returns, Devils Look to Break Skid

For the past week and a half, the New Jersey Devils have been missing a key piece to their lineup.

He may not be a top offensive threat, but Ryan Carter helped anchor the third line that gave New Jersey it’s “identity.” It was a line that got the puck deep, went hard on the forecheck and could set the tone for the rest of a game.

“When we split those guys up or put them on different lines or one of them is out, they don’t have the same chemistry or effect on the game as they do when they’re together,” Devils coach Pete DeBoer told Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record. “They have a chemistry that is hard to replicate.”

That line will look to help the Devils break a three-game losing streak today against the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagra Center.

New Jersey has lost six of their last eight games, failing to score more than two goals in each of those contests. That streak knocked them from the top spot in the Eastern Conference to seventh, just three points ahead of the ninth-place Philadelphia Flyers.

“We’ve just got to continue that everyone is staying positive,” Bryce Salvador told Gulitti. “There’s still lots of hockey left. The team that’s going to stay pretty positive and not get too high or too low has as good a chance as anyone to come out of this conference. I think that’s as important as anything.”

Winnipeg won the second game of a home-and-home series Thursday, defeating the Devils, 3-1. Andrew Ladd scored twice, including just eight seconds after the opening face off, to send the Devils to its third straight loss. Andrei Loktionov scored the lone goal for the Devils. He enters today’s game on a career-high four game point streak.

Johan Hedberg, making his third consecutive start, stopped 18 shots. He allowed less than four goals for the first time in three starts but still lost his fourth game in a row.

Buffalo sits near the bottom of the Eastern Conference, but has won its last two games. The Sabres sit 27th in the league in goals allowed, with 67 goals scored against them. The team has one of the top scorers in the league, Thomas Vanek. The left wing is fourth in the league with 27 points.

The Sabres defeated the Florida Panthers, 4-3, in a shootout Thursday. Nathan Gerbe paced the Sabres with two goals, and Tyler Ennis finished with a multi-point game (1g, 1a). Ryan Miller blanked Florida in the shootout for the team’s second straight win.

This is the first of three meetings between New Jersey and Buffalo this season. They met four times last year, with the Devils taking three of four from the Sabres. In its last game at First Niagra Center, Ilya Kovalchuk led the charge, recording a hat trick to help New Jersey defeat Buffalo, 4-1.

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