The Buffalo Sabres are coming off of an impressive team win against the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday night. They showed some resilience, a trait we haven’t seen very often this season.
The scoring output also continues to increase since Jack Eichel has come back into the lineup. After scoring six against the Kings the other the night the Sabres are now at 3.28 goals per game over the last seven. Prior to Eichel’s return, they were scoring 1.85 goals per game.
The Islanders come in as the worst team in the Eastern Conference. The future of the franchise is in turmoil with regards to their head coach Jack Capuano. General Manager Garth Snow is also on the hot seat as his big two offseason acquisitions in Andrew Ladd and Jason Chimera have struggled. If the Islanders don’t turn things around in the near future we’re likely to see big changes to the club from Brooklyn.
Islanders come in as losers of three straight including a 5-4 loss at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks last night. Buffalo has an excellent opportunity to keep their winning ways going. They’re catching the Isles on the second game of back to back nights and they’re having a hard time figuring out a way to win. These are the types of games the Sabres need to pick up two points on, especially at home. The Islanders are the worst road team in the Eastern Conference with a 2-7-1 record on the road coming into tonight.
New York Islanders at Buffalo Sabres
Key Bank Center – 7 p.m. EST
Broadcast channels – MSG-B
2016-17 Season Series: First Matchup
New York Islanders – 11-13-5 – 27 Points
Road Record: 2-7-1
Hot Players: John Tavares and Anders Lee
Key Injuries: Mikhail Grabovski
Anders Lee – John Tavares – Josh Bailey
Shane Prince – Brock Nelson – Ryan Strome
Nikolay Kulemin – Casey Cizikas – Cal Clutterbuck
Andrew Ladd – Nick Quine – Jason Chimera
Nick Leddy – Travis Hamonic
Thomas Hickey – Johnny Boychuk
Calvin de Hann – Dennis Seidenberg
Buffalo Sabres – 11-11-6 – 28 Points
Home Record: 6-6-3
Hot Players: Rasmus Ristolainen, Jack Eichel and Kyle Okposo
Key Injuries: Zach Bogosian and Tyler Ennis
Evander Kane – Jack Eichel – Kyle Okposo
William Carrier – Ryan O’Reilly – Sam Reinhart
Marcus Foligno – Johan Larsson – Brian Gionta
Nic Deslauriers – Zemgus Girgensons – Matt Moulson
Rasmus Ristolainen – Jake McCabe
Cody Franson – Dmitry Kulikov
Justin Falk – Josh Gorges
1) Kyle Okposo will face his former team tonight for the first time since signing with the Sabres in the offseason. Okposo leads the Sabres with nine goals and 21 points in 27 games. Those numbers are better than the combined goals and points from the Islanders two big offseason pickups in Ladd and Chimera.
2) Rasmus Ristolainen continues to excel with the increase in ice time. The 22-year old defender enters tonight with 11 points in his last ten games and seven points in his last five.
3) The Sabres are nearly back to full health. Both Zach Bogosian and Taylor Fedun appear ready to go. Dan Bylsma and Tim Murray will have decisions to make on who they want to keep in Buffalo and who will go back to Rochester of the American Hockey League.
Coach Bylsma: Team is getting healthier. Full practice for Bogo & Fedun; will need to make decisions soon. pic.twitter.com/mXvoWsNqrf
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) December 15, 2016
4) After a slow start, Islanders star center John Tavares has found his scoring touch again. He has points in nine of his last ten games and has scored a point in each of those ten games except two.
5) Robin Lehner is back in goal again for the Sabres. He finally picked up a win against the Kings on Tuesday. It wasn’t his best game, but picking up the win was huge as he only had one in his previous ten starts. Lehner will be an important part of this final eight-game stretch to end the month of December. He’ll likely appear in at least six of those eight games.
The mantra is going to stay the same for the duration of December. The Sabres need to pick up points to get back into the playoff race and capitalizing on games like tonight is another step in the right direction.
The Islanders are currently sitting behind the Sabres in the standings, but are struggling to find their way. Buffalo does not want to be the team that lets them off the mat. All the advantages are in the Sabres favor tonight. They’re playing on home ice and the Islanders are playing their third game in four nights, as well as the second of back to backs.