BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -After all the changes the New York Islanders went through this summer, coach Ted Nolan's decision to put together an all-newcomer top line quickly paid off.
Mike Comrie, Bill Guerin and Ruslan Fedotenko, inseparable since the free-agent threesome was put together on the first day of training camp, found instant chemistry in a 6-4 win over the Buffalo Sabres in the teams' season opener Friday night.
The line combined for three goals and seven assists, with Comrie leading the way with two goals and two assists. The four-point outing matched a career high for a player who split last season between Phoenix and Ottawa.
"We've been together since the first day of camp, so there aren't excuses about gelling," Comrie said. "You always want to start off strong, but there's some things we can improve on as a team."
Sure, but the line's production is quickly answering questions of how the Islanders intend to make up for losing Ryan Smyth and Jason Blake to free agency last summer.
"We're very proud of the players that we have and we don't want to talk too much about the people that left," Nolan said. "We want to talk about the people that are here."
Fedotenko, who spent last season in Tampa Bay, had a goal and two assists, including the 100th of his career, and Bill Guerin (St. Louis and San Jose) added three assists. Josef Vasicek, another free-agent addition, Chris Campoli and Trent Hunter also scored in helping New York open with a victory for the first time since 2001, and second time in the past 12 seasons.
The Sabres endured offseason changes, too, after losing co-captains Chris Drury and Daniel Briere to free agency. While their offense didn't lose a step, their defense proved inept despite returning six blue-liners.
"The defensive zone seemed chaotic," said goaltender Ryan Miller, who had little chance on all six goals, which came off one-timers, scrambles in front and odd-man rushes. "We were a little overanxious."
Defenseman Jaroslav Spacek had a goal and assist, while Thomas Vanek, Derek Roy and Drew Stafford also scored for the Sabres, who won't be matching last season's strong start, when they won their first 10 games to match an NHL record.
|Buffalo Sabres' Drew Stafford, left, checks New York Islanders' Andy Sutton during the first period.
"We've moved on from last year," defenseman Brian Campbell said. "We have some work to do. We're a long ways from where we want to be."
Comrie's second goal made it 5-4, putting the Isles ahead for good with 4 minutes left in the second period. Chasing down a loose puck at center, Comrie sidestepped defender Toni Lydman, and banked a shot in off the crossbar to cap the breakaway.
Hunter provided the insurance 7 minutes into the third. Hunter capped a scramble in front of the Buffalo net, the goal coming immediately after Isles' goaltender Rick DiPietro foiled Roy's shot from the slot at the other end.
DiPietro, who made 22 saves, was at his best in the first period when he got across the crease and snagged Vanek's one-timer from the left circle.
The Comrie line carried over its success from the preseason, in which it combined for six goals and 14 points in three games, all victories.
"When you lose players like Blake and Smyth, you have to replace them with good solid NHL guys, and we did that," veteran Mike Sillinger said. "To get these guys going, it was huge for our team."
The game was a rematch of last spring's first-round playoff series, which the Sabres won in five games. The teams complete a home-at-home series at Long Island on Saturday.
Notes: Before the game, the Sabres hoisted their franchise-first Presidents' Trophy championship banner, after going a league-best 53-22-7 last season. ... The Isles converted 3-of-4 power-play chances. ... Islanders LW Chris Simon did not play, still having five games left on a 25-game suspension he received last season for a two-handed, stick-swinging attack against the Rangers' Ryan Hollweg.
|Jaroslav Spacek (1) ASST: Brian Campbell (1), Paul Gaustad (1)|
1 - 0 BUF
|Josef Vasicek (1) ASST: Bruno Gervais (1), Miroslav Satan (1)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Derek Roy (1) ASST: Maxim Afinogenov (1)|
2 - 1 BUF
|PPG - Ruslan Fedotenko (1) ASST: Bill Guerin (1), Mike Comrie (1)|
2 - 2 Tie
|PPG - Chris Campoli (1) ASST: Ruslan Fedotenko (1), Mike Comrie (2)|
3 - 2 NYI
|Drew Stafford (1) ASST: Daniel Paille (1), Jaroslav Spacek (1)|
3 - 3 Tie
|Mike Comrie (1) ASST: Ruslan Fedotenko (2), Bill Guerin (2)|
4 - 3 NYI
|Thomas Vanek (1) ASST: Nathan Paetsch (1), Dmitri Kalinin (1)|
4 - 4 Tie
|Mike Comrie (2) ASST: Bill Guerin (3), Marc-Andre Bergeron (1)|
5 - 4 NYI
|PPG - Trent Hunter (1) ASST: Mike Sillinger (1), Bruno Gervais (2)|
6 - 4 NYI
|Mike Comrie Slashing against Derek Roy|
|Drew Stafford Hooking against Trent Hunter|
|Tim Connolly Slashing against Mike Comrie|
|Radek Martinek Hooking against Jason Pominville|
|Thomas Vanek Slashing against Sean Bergenheim|
|Mike Sillinger Hi-sticking against Derek Roy|
|Thomas Vanek Hooking against Miroslav Satan|
|Andy Sutton Hooking against Jochen Hecht|