Not only are the Buffalo Sabres and New Jersey Devils at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, both teams are trying to recover without their star goaltenders.
Buffalo's Ryan Miller is out, and New Jersey's Martin Brodeur will miss a second straight start as the struggling teams meet at the Prudential Center on Wednesday night.
The Sabres (4-9-2) ended a five-game losing streak with a 3-2 shootout victory in Toronto on Friday. They did so without Miller, who will miss his fifth straight game with a sore leg muscle and may not return until Saturday.
Miller's backup, Patrick Lalime, sat out Tuesday's practice with a stomach ailment, meaning 22-year-old rookie Jhonas Enroth will likely make his second straight start. Enroth stopped 23 shots in regulation and overtime and four of five in the shootout against the Maple Leafs, earning his first career victory.
"It was great for him to get his first NHL win," Ruff told the team's official website. "It should make him feel good about the way he played and how he performed in the shootout. Part of his makeup is that there isn't a lot that bothers the kid. He doesn't get too emotional either way – he doesn't get too jacked up, and I don't know if I've ever seen him down. It's a pretty good demeanor for a goaltender."
The win came in dramatic fashion, as Jochen Hecht scored to force overtime with 13.1 seconds remaining and Enroth pulled for an extra attacker. Derek Roy scored his team-leading seventh goal to end a three-game scoreless streak.
Buffalo's 10 points rank ahead of only New Jersey's nine in the East.
The Sabres may get some inspiration on a milestone night for Ruff, who will coach his 1,000th game. He'll be the 18th in history to reach the mark and third to do so with one team.
He'd like to do it with a victory -- something that's been elusive this season.
We need to put something together now," Ruff said. "And I think you only eliminate the bad times by putting together a real good stretch and coming out the stronger team."
While the Sabres won't have Miller, Brodeur will sit out again with a bruised right elbow that kept him out of a 3-0 loss to the New York Rangers on Friday.
Johan Hedberg, 1-2-0 with a 5.05 goals-against average, will make his second consecutive start. The team recalled Mike McKenna from Albany of the AHL to back him up.
New Jersey (4-10-1) has lost three of four and been shut out in its last two defeats. The Devils are the first team to reach double digits in losses and are 0-5-1 at home.
"We all recognize the situation that we're in," Hedberg told the team's official website after the Wednesday morning skate. "Our home record, we're the only people that can get us out of this. We're going to have to come up with the big plays and make the plays that are going to get us on a roll. We have to be consistent, we have to be consistently better."
Ilya Kovalchuk has two assists over his last six games, and the Devils have converted 6.4 percent of their power-play chances, ranking near the bottom of the NHL.
"We played hard. We competed hard. We're just not generating enough offense," coach John MacLean said after the loss to the Rangers.
Buffalo and New Jersey have split two meetings this season, each winning on the road.
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