NEW YORK ISLANDERS (26-22-6) AT BUFFALO SABRES (14-29-10)
7 P.M. KEYBANK CENTER
TV: MSG+2, MSG GO
RADIO: 88.7FM, 103.9FM, AM970
GAME NOTES - MORNING SKATE UPDATES
As much as it hurt to give up a late tying goal on Monday, the New York Islanders felt there was a lot to take from their third period against Nashville.
They carried the play for much of the period, generated grade-A scoring chances and could have had a couple of goals if not for some spectacular stops by Pekka Rinne. Defensively, the Islanders found a way to suppress shots, holding Nashville to one through 15 minutes and three until they pulled their goalie.
"I thought we played a really good third period," Casey Cizikas said on Monday. "I thought we did everything we wanted to. We got pucks in deep, didn't turn anything over, we played a solid third, it was just a tough ending."
The shot suppression may have been the biggest key, as allowing a high volume of shots has become a hallmark of the season. The Islanders have allowed 30 shots in a club-record 20 straight games and have allowed 50, 49 and 47 in the last three, respectively.
Head Coach Doug Weight said he wanted to see his team work harder to get into shooting lanes after Monday's game and the Islanders practiced that on Wednesday.
As for the implications in the standings, every game from here on out is big for the Islanders, who are tied with Columbus in points (58), but have played one fewer game and therefore sit outside the East Wild Card.
"It's a crucial time," Weight said. "We have six teams coming that if we're going to be a playoff team let alone a contender we've got to pull our shorts up and get 10 points. Nine to 10 out of 12, maybe 12. Those are teams that are good hockey clubs that are desperate hockey clubs... We have teams that are doing the same thing we are and we have to make hay, we have to dig in and play better than they do, more desperate than they do and block more shots than they do and this is the six games that won't make it to the playoffs, but can put you ahead of three or four teams that you've been chasing for the past month. Obviously we know the importance of that."
UPDATE: Halak in goal, Johnston in for Quine. Boychuk doubtful to play, but not officially out. Projected lines and more at morning skate updates.
Scott Mayfield will miss at least four weeks with a lower-body injury after blocking a P.K. Subban shot on Monday. Mayfield was placed on IR retroactive to Monday, but the Islanders did not recall a defenseman from Bridgeport.
Johnny Boychuk practiced again with the Islanders, but is not yet ready to return meaning Dennis Seidenberg will draw back into the lineup.
Mathew Barzal took a maintenance day on Wednesday, but should be ready to play on Thursday according to Weight.
The Islanders are 2-0-0 against the Sabres this season, beating Buffalo 6-3 on Oct. 7 and scoring a 3-2 comeback OT win on Dec. 27. Mathew Barzal scored the game winner after Josh Bailey forced overtime with 1:09 to play in the team's most recent meeting.
Overall the Islanders are 10-1-5 in their last 16 games against Buffalo.
BY THE NUMBERS:
20 - consecutive games allowing 30+ shots. The Islanders have allowed 30 or more shots in a club-record 20 straight games.
Power Play: Islanders 20.3% - 17th, Sabres 16.6% - 26th
Penalty Kill: Islanders 74.2% - 29th, Sabres 78.2% - 25th
Last Game: OTL 4-3 vs Anaheim
Goals: Jack Eichel - 21
Assists: Jack Eichel - 30
Points: Jack Eichel - 51
It's been another tough season for the Sabres, who find themselves last in the Eastern Conference in points (38) and have scored the fewest goals (120) in the NHL.
The Sabres are 0-3-1 on their current five-game homestead which wraps up on Thursday against the Islanders.
Jack Eichel continues to drive the Sabres offense, leading the team in goals (21), assists (30) and points (51). Eichel has three points (1G, 2A) in two games against the Islanders this season.
Jake McCabe's status for Thursday's game is up in their air as the defenseman left the Sabres-Ducks game in the first period and did not return.
UPDATE: Robin Lehner will start in goal for the Sabres.