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Sabres vs. Islanders preview: Sabres draft picks hurt no matter who wins

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Two teams that have been tied together through trade square off tonight in Buffalo.

Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Game #36

Buffalo Sabres (13-19-3) at

New York Islanders (23-11-0)

Puck Drop: 7:00 pm EST | First Niagara Center | Buffalo, New York
TV: MSG, Bell TV | Radio: WGR 550
SB Nation Islanders Blog: Lighthouse Hockey

Three Questions

1. How will the returning players look?

With the holiday break it's been a few days since any of the Sabres have seen game action, but the wait for three Sabres has been even longer. Matt Moulson will be back in the lineup after missing the last couple games with the flu. Also returning are Mike Weber and Cody McCormick, who had both suffered injuries. Will the influx of veterans back into the lineup help the Sabres avoid a fifth straight loss?

2. Will the Sabres be able to take advantage of another backup goalie?

It's no secret that opposing teams like to get their backup some work when playing the Sabres. That's just the nature of being a poor team. This go around, the Sabres will be facing a third string goaltender. Legendary Sabre Jaroslav Halak was put on injured reserve today, leading the Islanders to recall Kevin Poulin. He'll be starting tonight instead of usual backup Chad Johnson.

Poulin is coming off a shutout last night against the Providence Bruins. The 24-year-old goaltender played 28 games with the Islanders last season, posting a .891 save percentage and a 3.29 goals against average.

3. Will the Sabres listed fourth line get more ice time than the third?

The Sabres didn't call up Mikhail Grigorenko until the afternoon, meaning Cody Hodgson and Chris Stewart were the odd two men out in the morning skate. Those three are listed as the fourth line, despite having far more talent than the third line of Johan Larsson, Cody McCormick, and Patrick Kaleta. Were they just listed as the fourth line due to the odd practice scenario, or will they actually get less ice time tonight? If they do, it could be another frustrating chapter in the Grigorenko/Sabres saga.

Projected BUF lineup

Moulson - Girgensons - Ennis
Deslauriers - Flynn - Stafford
Larsson - McCormick - Kaleta
Hodgson - Grigorenko - Stewart

Ristolainen - Gorges
Zadorov - Meszaros
Weber - Benoit

Goal: Jhonas Enroth