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Preview: Wrapping Up the Homestand

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The Sabres will finish their five-game homestand tonight with a game against the New York Islanders

NHL: Buffalo Sabres at New York Islanders Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

Game #54

Buffalo Sabres (14-29-10) vs. New York Islanders (26-22-6)

Season Series: 2-0 Islanders

10/7 - Islanders 6 | Sabres 3

12/27 - Islanders 3 | Sabres 2 (OT) (recap)

Puck drop: 7:00 p.m. EST | KeyBank Center | Buffalo, NY

TV: MSG

Radio: WGR 550

SB Nation Islanders blog: Lighthouse Hockey

What to Watch

1. Winter Classic Sweaters

Tonight will be on of the few games that the Sabres will wear their jersey from the Winter Classic. The Islanders will counter with their dark sweaters since the Sabres will be in white. The way it should be, by the way.

2. Lineup Changes

The morning skate line rushes indicate that Evan Rodrigues will get the opportunity to skate with Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart on the top line. Also, John Larsson returns from his two-game suspension.

3. Shake up on defense.

Phil Housley has split up Rasmus Ristolainen and Marco Scandella. Ristolainen will skate with Nathan Beaulieu and Scandella will be paired with Casey Nelson. Jake McCabe is out with an injury and Justin Falk is the scratch. Meaning Josh Gorges and Victor Antipin will return to the lineup.

Know Your Opponent

1. John Tavares last game in Buffalo as an Islander?

Tonight will be the last time the Sabres and Islanders meet this season. Which means it could be last time Sabres fans get a look at Tavares as a member of the Islanders. The star center is set to become an unrestricted free agent in July and appears to be no sign of a contract extension in the near future.

2. Struggles

The Islanders are in the middle of a small slump losing three of their last four. They’ve given up at least three goals in each of those four games and a total of 17 during this rough patch. The Islanders are currently tied with the Columbus Blue Jackets for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. Every game is important for them.

3. Rookie Sensation

The Sabres are well familiar with the Islanders rookie Mathew Barzal. He’s a dynamic player and scored the game-winning goal in overtime the last time these two teams met. He’s in the midst of a cold streak having not scored in nine games going into tonight. Nonetheless, he’ll be in the Calder Trophy conversation with Vancouver Canucks forward Brock Boeser at the end of the season.

Projected Lineup

71 Evan Rodrigues - 15 Jack Eichel - 23 Sam Reinhart

9 Evander Kane - 90 Ryan O’Reilly - 21 Kyle Okposo

28 Zemgus Girgensons - 22 Johan Larsson - 29 Jason Pominville

67 Benoit Pouliot - 10 Jacob Josefson - 17 Jordan Nolan

82 Nathan Beaulieu - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen

6 Marco Scandella - 8 Casey Nelson

4 Josh Gorges - 93 Victor Antipin

Starting Goaltender: 40 Robin Lehner