Quick Turnaround as Sabres Visit Islanders Saturday Evening
The Sabres face the Islanders for a 5 p.m. puck drop.
Buffalo Sabres (34-31-6) vs, New York Islanders (37-27-9)
Puck Drop: 5:00 PM EST | UBS Arena | Elmont, NY
TV: ESPN+, Hulu
Radio: WGR 550
SB Nation Isles Blog: Lighthouse Hockey
Know Your Opponent
New York Islanders
Record: 37-27-9 | 83 PTS
Division Ranking: 4th in Metropolitan Division
Last Game: 5-4 loss to Columbus
Last 10: 6-2-2
PP: 29th (16.8%)
PK: 11th (81.6%)
What to Watch
1. Thompson Questionable, Rousek Recalled
Friday’s game was a big win for the Sabres, but top scorer Tage Thompson is considered “a question mark” for Saturday’s game. Thompson is currently dealing with an injury, and although he did return in Friday’s game, it’s probably best not to risk further setback.
With that in mind, forward Lukas Rousek has been recalled from the AHL’s Rochester Americans on an emergency basis. In addition to Thompson, the Sabres are also missing Jordan Greenway, who is out with an upper-body injury. Vinnie Hinostroza was also excused the last two days for personal reasons. (Hope everything is okay with Vinnie & his family.)
Rousek has skated in 61 games with the Amerks this season, putting up 15 goals and 33 assists for 48 points. He’s second on the team in scoring, with only Brandon Biro (15-35-50) ahead of him.
That said, we’ll have to see what the lines look like when the Sabres hit the ice tonight. With a 5 p.m. puck drop, there is no morning skate. Head coach Don Granato will speak to the media at 3:30 p.m.
2. Staying in the Playoff Race
The Sabres’ playoff hopes continue to fluctuate on a daily basis. Earlier this week, the odds of Buffalo making the postseason were as low as 0.7 percent. Entering Friday, the odds were 1.0 percent. Today, thanks in part to the Sabres win on Friday night and other combinations - including the Islanders’ loss - the postseason chance is at a whopping 1.5 percent.
Look, it’s not great. The playoff hopes are hanging on by a thread, but stranger things have happened. With the Islanders currently holding the top wildcard spot, tonight’s game is a big one if Buffalo wants to have any hope of making it. Still, there are a lot of variables and a lot that needs to happen over the next few weeks to see Buffalo nab a playoff spot.
But again, I stress: stranger things have happened.
3. Who to Watch
Left winger Brock Nelson leads the Islanders with 32 goals and 67 points on the season, while Mat Barzal has 51 points, including 37 assists. Anders Lee (27-21-48) and Noah Dobson (13-30-43) are the other Islanders who have surpassed the 40-point mark.
Compare that to the Sabres, who are led by Thompson (44-45-89), Jeff Skinner (30-39-69) and Alex Tuch (32-36-68). Rasmus Dahlin has 65 points, and Dylan Cozens has 60. Casey Mittelstadt has also passed 40 points, with 42 on the season.
While the Sabres have a more productive and lethal offense, the Islanders have a strong goalie in Ilya Sorokin. Sorokin is 26-19-7 on the season with a 2.41 GAA and .923 save percentage. However, Sorokin played Friday night, so it seems like we’ll see Semyon Varlamov instead. He’s 11-8-2 on the season with a 2.79 GAA and .910 save percentage.
On the flip side, with UPL in net on Friday, it’s likely the Sabres go with Craig Anderson on Saturday. Anderson is 10-11-2 with a 3.07 GAA and .908 save percentage. They could also go with Eric Comrie, who backed up UPL Friday. Comrie is 8-9-0 this season with a 3.95 GAA an .877 save percentage.
With no morning skate, we’ll see what the lines look like. Thompson’s status could also have an impact on the lines.
Jeff Skinner - Tage Thompson* - Alex Tuch
JJ Peterka - Dylan Cozens - Jack Quinn
Casey Mittelstadt - Tyson Jost - Victor Olofsson
Zemgus Girgensons - Peyton Krebs - Kyle Okposo
Rasmus Dahlin - Henri Jokiharju
Owen Power - Ilya Lyubushkin
Riley Stillman - Jacob Bryson or Kale Clague
Goaltenders: Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, Craig Anderson, Eric Comrie, Devon Levi
New York Islanders
Anders Lee - Bo Horvat - Simon Holmstrom
Pierre Engvall - Brock Nelson - Kyle Palmieri
Zach Parise - Jean-Gabriel Pageau - Hudson Fasching
Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Cal Clutterbuck
Adam Pelech - Scott Mayfield
Alexander Romanov - Ryan Pulock
Samuel Bolduc - Noah Dobson
Goaltenders: Semyon Varlamov, Ilya Sorokin