(Sports Network) - The sliding New Jersey Devils will try to end their longest losing streak in over two years when they host the Buffalo Sabres in Thursday's battle at Prudential Center.
The Devils are 0-5-1 in their last six games, marking the franchise's longest skid since it dropped six straight in regulation from Dec. 17-29, 2010. Another setback on Thursday would give New Jersey its worst losing streak in decades, as the club hasn't lost seven straight since an eight-game slide from Jan. 24-Feb. 8, 1986.
New Jersey, last year's Eastern Conference champions, began the season with an 8-1-3 record, but is currently fighting to stay in the playoff picture. The Devils are currently seeded seventh out of the eight postseason seeds in the East and is just one point in front of the New York Rangers.
All six losses during the current funk have come with starting goaltender Martin Brodeur sidelined due to back soreness. The future Hall of Famer will miss a seventh straight game on Thursday and there's still no timetable for his return.
Johan Hedberg will get the start in net on Thursday and has taken all six losses during the skid. Hedberg allowed three goals on 11 shots before being pulled in the second period of Tuesday's 5-2 setback against visiting Tampa Bay. Rookie goaltender Keith Kinkaid stopped 12-of-13 shots in his first NHL appearance.
"Once I got that call, my legs started shaking," Kinkaid admitted of his debut. "Just to get that first taste of NHL hockey is surreal."
It's unknown when Kinkaid will get his second taste of NHL action since he was sent back to the minors following Tuesday's loss and was replaced on the roster by goaltender Jeff Frazee.
Adam Henrique and Patrik Elias each scored once in Tuesday's loss, which dropped the Devils to 6-3-2 as the host this season.
In a move for depth, the Devils claimed veteran right winger Tom Kostopoulos off waivers from the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday. Kostopoulos has played for five NHL teams during his career but has spent 2013 playing for Pittsburgh's AHL affiliate, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. The Devils made room for Kostopoulos by sending forward Cam Janssen to their AHL club in Albany. Kostopoulos is expected to be in the lineup on Thursday.
The Sabres are 0-1-1 so far on a four-game road trip that is set to end Sunday in Philadelphia. Buffalo's most recent setback came in Tuesday's 4-3 regulation setback to the Carolina Hurricanes.
Cody Hodgson had two goals for the Sabres, including a short-handed tally with just 35 seconds left in regulation. TJ Brennan added his first goal of the season, while Ryan Miller stopped 24-of-28 shots in defeat.
"It comes back to playing a full 60 minutes," Buffalo defenseman Tyler Myers said. "It is what has gotten us in trouble the last three years. We have to find a way to start a game and finish it. We can't start playing when it's too late."
Buffalo is 5-7-1 as the road team this season. The club is 3-3-1 since interim head coach Ron Rolston took over for the fired Lindy Ruff.
New Jersey won three of four meetings against the Sabres in 2011-12, but Buffalo has claimed three of four and six of the past eight encounters on the road.