Sabres look to extend recent spurt against beleaguered Devils

Giving up two short-handed goals to a rival Saturday afternoon was bad enough for the New Jersey Devils. Hearing the clock begin to run on the Taylor Hall Era was even worse.

The Devils will look to bounce back from one of their most discouraging days of the season -- and perhaps begin doing their best to convince Hall to remain with the team -- when they visit the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night in an Eastern Conference battle.

Both teams were off Sunday after absorbing losses Saturday, when the host Devils were blanked by the New York Rangers, 4-0, and the visiting Sabres completed a back-to-back set against the Toronto Maple Leafs by falling, 2-1, in overtime.

A disappointing loss for the Devils -- "highlighted" by the Rangers scoring short-handed goals twice in a span of a little more than three minutes early in the third period -- was overshadowed by a TSN report before the game that New Jersey general manager Ray Shero has begun soliciting trade offers for Hall, the left winger who won the Hart Trophy as the NHL's Most Valuable Player in his second season with the team in 2017-18.

Hall is a free agent after the season and optimism he can reach a deal with the Devils before the summer has softened during a second straight miserable season for New Jersey, which finished last in the Metropolitan Division and is once again in the basement with the second-fewest points in the NHL entering Sunday.

"I'll let my agent speak but I have not asked for a trade," Hall told reporters afterward. "I don't know what gets out there sometimes."

The Sabres, who haven't made the playoffs since the 2010-11 season, fell into a familiar funk in November, when they undid a 9-2-2 start -- the best in the NHL -- by going 3-8-3.

It could have been worse, though, for the Sabres, who beat the Maple Leafs 6-4 on Friday and ended the month by collecting six points in their final five games (2-1-2).

"We started the season well, had the dive there and now we're getting our game back," Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen told reporters after scoring the only goal for Buffalo against the Maple Leafs on Saturday. "We just have to keep going and keep working harder."

The Devils' Mackenzie Blackwood is likely to oppose the Sabres' Carter Hutton in a battle of No. 1 netminders. Blackwood took the loss Saturday, when he stopped 19 shots against the Rangers. Hutton also took the loss Saturday, when he made 41 saves against the Maple Leafs.

Blackwood lost his only career start against the Sabres on Oct. 5, when he made 29 saves as Buffalo cruised to a 7-2 win. Hutton is 4-3-0 in seven games against the Devils.

The game Monday marks the second of three this season between the Sabres and Devils. New Jersey is scheduled to host Buffalo on April 2.

--Field Level Media
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