UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The New York Islanders have an opportunity to get back to the .500 mark as they host the Buffalo Sabres tonight at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
The Isles (21-22-7) pulled within a game of .500 Friday night when Mark Eaton ended a 120-game goalless drought in overtime to lift New York to a 2-1 victory at Ottawa. The Islanders -- who haven't been a .500 club since Nov. 5 -- enter tonight's action nine points behind Toronto for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
"We're a confident bunch right now," said Isles winger PA Parenteau, who had two more assists Friday night to give him 36 on the season. "We play with a lot of passion and we know what's at stake in the next two weeks. Nothing's impossible for us. … A lot of guys are playing well. It's only nine points and there's a lot of games left."
Buffalo (21-24-6) is also 2-0-1 in its last three games and has allowed only two goals over that span. The Sabres couldn't solve Henrik Lundqvist in a 1-0 shootout loss to the New York Rangers at the First Niagara Center on Wednesday night. The Sabres have been somewhat fortunate to earn points in three of their last four games considering they've only scored five goals.
"I know it'll come … we still have to score," Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said. "I don't want to talk about chances any more. You've got to create them to get them. The more you create, the better chance you're going to have. The less you give up, the easier it is for your goaltender. I think we've played harder in some situations, which has made a difference."
Here are the expected lines tonight for each club:
Ville Leino - Derek Roy - Jason Pominville
Nathan Gerbe - Tyler Ennis - Drew Stafford
Paul Gaustad - Brad Boyes - Patrick Kaleta
Matt Ellis - Luke Adam - Cody McCormick
Christian Ehrhoff - Tyler Myers
Robyn Regehr - Jordan Leopold
Andrej Sekera - Mike Weber
Ryan Miller gets the start in goal. The Sabres' netminder has stopped 83 of 85 shots over the last three games while boasting a 0.63 goals-against average. Jhonas Enroth will be the backup.
Buffalo will be without sniper Thomas Vanek, who suffered an upper-body injury during Tuesday's 3-1 win at Montreal. Ennis and Stafford are both expected to play after battling the flu. Jochen Hecht and T.J. Brennan are out with concussions. Zach Kassian and Marc-Andre Gragnani are expected to be healthy scratches.
Matt Moulson - John Tavares - Kyle Okposo
Michael Grabner - Frans Nielsen - PA Parenteau
Rhett Rakhshani - Josh Bailey - Matt Martin
Tim Wallace - Jay Pandolfo - Nino Niederreiter
Mark Streit - Steve Staios
Andrew MacDonald - Travis Hamonic
Mark Eaton - Milan Jurcina
The Islanders did not skate this morning after arriving home late from Ottawa. With the quick turnaround, it's likely Al Montoya will start in goal. Evgeni Nabokov made 23 saves in Friday's victory.
Rick DiPietro (lower body), Mike Mottau (concussion) and Marty Reasoner (hand) are out for New York. Dylan Reese and Brian Rolston are the likely healthy scratches.
Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL