New York Islanders (36-29-12) at Buffalo Sabres (32-33-12)
3 p.m., KeyBank Center
Radio: AM970 - The Answer, 88.7FM - WRHU, 103.9FM - LI News
Six points out with five games left. That's where the New York Islanders stand as they head into Sunday's matinee matchup with the Buffalo Sabres (3 p.m., MSG+).
The Islanders (84 points) are six points back of the Boston Bruins (90 points) for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. If the Bruins win two more games and/or the Islanders lose two more games, the Islanders will be eliminated from the playoffs. With that, Sunday's game - and the next four - are all must-win games for the Isles.
John Tavares is week-to-week with a lower-body injury meaning the Islanders will have to continue their playoff push without their captain and leading scorer. Tavares had 66 points (28G, 38A) in 77 games this season, led all forwards in ice time (20:25), tied for the team lead in power-play time (3:11) and was killing penalties.
"It's a big blow anytime you see your best player go down," Interim Coach Doug Weight said on Friday. "These guys have been around. Injuries happen. It's not fun, but it gives somebody a chance."
Connor Jones Recalled:
With Tavares, Casey Cizikas, Ryan Strome and Nikolay Kulemin all out, the Islanders were down to 11 forwards, necessitating Connor Jones' recall from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
Jones recorded 18 points (5G, 13A) in 56 games with the Sound Tigers this season in his third AHL season. This is Jones' first NHL recall.
The Sabres have won two of their last three games entering Saturday's action, beating Toronto and Florida before losing to Columbus on Thursday night.
Kyle Okposo (ill) will miss Sunday's game, so C.J. Smith will make his NHL debut. Smith scored 125 points in 120 games with UMass-Lowell during his collegiate career and signed an entry-level contract with the Sabres on Thursday.
Rasmus Ristolainen will return to the Sabres lineup after serving a three-game suspension.
Projected Sabres Lines:
|LEFT WING ||CENTER ||RIGHT WING |
|EVANDER KANE ||RYAN O'REILLY ||TYLER ENNIS |
|MARCUS FOLIGNO ||JACK EICHEL ||SAM REINHART |
|C.J. SMITH ||EVAN RODRIGUES ||BRIAN GIONTA |
|WILLIAM CARRIER ||ZEMGUS GIRGENSONS ||MATT MOULSON |
|LEFT ||RIGHT |
|JAKE MCCABE ||RASMUS RISTOLAINEN |
|DMITRY KULIKOV ||ZACH BOGOSIAN |
|JOSH GORGES ||JUSTIN FALK |