Game Preview: Buffalo Sabres @ New York Islanders

With a 2-1 win in Atlanta, the Buffalo Sabres kicked off their road trip swimmingly and round two will be in Long Island tonight. While the Sabres have earned a point in nine straight matches, New York has been on a roll themselves going 7-2-1 in their last ten capping it off with a dominating 6-0 win over the Detroit Red Wings. And they've been doing it without John Tavares who's figuring out how real NHL slumps are.

The home side has won the previous three affairs and each has ended by three goals or more. On Oct.31, Ryan Miller had one of his worst performances as the Islanders beat him three times on 16 shots. He was pulled and the Sabres fell 5-0 in their most lopsided loss. New York can create a similar scoreline again especially after the beating they handed Detroit.

Ten additional notes on the game below.

  • Is it good to have Patrick Kaleta back or what? He scored the first goal against the Thrashers, threw four hits and drew the penalty which allowed Derek Roy's overtime winner. Kaleta's eagerness to get back onto the ice was crystal clear as he didn't wait for action but instead initiated it.
  • I wish I could say Chris Butler was as positive an influence on the outcome but I can't. His giveaways and missed passes summed up his evening. Two penalties were the icing on the cake and the second let Ilya Kovalchuk tie the game at one. Why is Butler dressing over Andrej Sekera again?
  • Rob Schremp has revitalized his career in Long Island and has nine points in eight games scoring a few highlight reel goals during that span. Josh Bailey is another youngster who has stepped it up with 12 points on a seven-game point streak.
  • Three of Miller's five shutouts this year have come on the road but New York looks unafraid of all their opponents these days and rightfully so. Rick DiPietro will take part in his second start with his sights set on shutting down the Sabres for his first win in well over a year.
  • Kaleta's presence means that Buffalo is now healthy up and down the lineup. For the Islanders, Brendan Witt is on injured reserve and Tim Jackman is a few weeks away from being 100 per cent.
  • How bad has it been for Tavares in the last month? One goal and two points in 15 games; that gives you an idea. Defensemen have learned from his quick start to shut him down effectively and it's now his turn to reverse it on them by finding alternate forms of production.
  • Former Sabre Martin Biron is the odd-man out between the pipes due to the return of DiPietro. Roloson was unquestionably the MVP of the first half for New York stealing games and keeping the Islanders on the playoff bubble. Biron's future is foggy after these developments.
  • Buffalo's powerplay has gotten it's act together somewhat moving up to 16th best in the league at 17.9 per cent. As for the penalty kill, the units have killed 24 of the last 25 shorthanded sequences and continue to be in the top six in that regard.
  • Tyler Myers saved a sure goal in Atlanta during the third period. Just thought I'd throw that out there. I wonder how much room Tavares will get if Myers is on him.
  • Kyle Okposo is on a four-game goal run and Tim Connolly's 10-game point streak has resulted in five goals to go with ten assists. 

Two points are suddenly the only thing keeping the Islanders out of a playoff spot. Buffalo is ten points ahead of Boston in the Northeast Division with a game in hand. A loss wouldn't hurt us but points can't ever be spared because the season is months away from finishing. The more, the better.

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