Jochen Hecht (five games, upper body) and Steve Montador (three games, lower body) will end their injury-induced absences tonight when the Sabres host the New Jersey Devils. Coach Lindy Ruff confirmed the changes his morning after his team's optional skate but would not say who is coming out of the lineup.
However, Mark Mancari skated extra and is expected to be the scratch to make room for Hecht. On defense, Ruff said there is an injury that necessitates Montador's return. He would not specify who was hurt but it's believed to be Jordan Leopold, who was shaking his hand on the bench last night late in the second period after crashing into Ryan Miller and the net while running down Florida's Ryan Carter on a short-handed breakaway.
Ruff confirmed that Ryan Miller will again be in goal for his sixth straight start. Tyler Myers, who nearly missed last night's game with the flu, is fine and will also play.
The Devils, meanwhile, are expected to be without defensemen Anton Volchenkov and Colin White tonight and have recalled Jay Leach from Albany.
The Devils started 10-29-2 and were 27 points out of the playoffs on Jan. 8. Then then went 23-3-2 to get as close as six points of eighth place. But they have finally fallen off, going 1-3-1 in the last five games and scoring just five goals in that stretch.
Three of those goals came in the lone win, a 3-0 victory over Columbus. The Devils scored just one goal in losses at Ottawa and Boston, and were shut out by Washington and again last night in Pittsburgh in a 1-0 shootout defeat. They're now 10 points behind the Sabres with just eight games to play but Ruff still said today he was amazed by how far they rallied under coach Jacques Lemaire, who returned to the bench after John MacLean was fired.
"I thought it was incredible. I really do," Ruff said. "To come from where they were at and climb to a possible playoff position ... and have the record they did until this last week, I think everybody in the league, especially everybody in the East, was taking a look at what Jersey was doing. You have to give Jacques a lot of credit for walking in and getting that team going in the right direction."