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Game Preview: Islanders vs. Sabres

by Cory Wright / New York Islanders
The New York Islanders can clinch a playoff spot tonight with a win over the Buffalo Sabres, combined with a regulation loss by the Ottawa Senators.

While that scenario plays out in the minds of Islanders fans, the focus for the team is on the ice and playing tough against a hard working Sabres team.  

“They are feisty and they are going to play hard,” John Tavares said. “These are big points up for grabs for us. We have to be ready to play, we can’t take anything for granted.”

The Islanders are looking to bounce back from a 4-3 shootout loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night. The Islanders lost a 3-1 lead in the third period off a pair of funky bounces and scrambles in front of their net, but feel if they recreate the same effort, they should come away with two points.

Head Coach Jack Capuano praised his new top line of Tavares, Nikolay Kulemin and Ryan Strome, as the line generated two of the Islanders three goals in Columbus. Tavares and Strome have been a potent duo in the past two games, combining for seven points (three goals, four assists). Tavares posted back-to-back multi-point games, while Strome has scored in two straight and has points in four straight.

“I was really impressed with that line,” Capuano said. “That was a lot of our offense [Thursday]. We need to find a way to get some of these other guys involved offensively.”

The Islanders and Sabres split the first two games of their season series, both in Buffalo. The Islanders won the most recent meeting, 3-2, but the game was more onesided than the score indicated, as the Islanders outshot the Sabres 31-10. The only thing preventing the Islanders from running away with the score was Michal Neuvirth, who was acquired by the Islanders at the March 2 trade deadline.

This is the first meeting between the teams at Nassau Coliseum this season, which bodes well for the orange and blue, as the Islanders are 6-2-2 against the Sabres at home.

The Sabres are playing the second night of a back-to-back, after losing 4-3 to the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday night.

“This team playing on a back to back, so any time you can jump on them early you want to do that,” Tavares said.

Former Islander Matt Moulson did not play Friday (illness) and his status for tonight’s game is uncertain. Moulson (13G, 27A) is the Sabres second-leading point scorer and scored 30 goals in three straight seasons (2009-12) for the Islanders. Tyler Ennis leads the Sabres with 19 goals and 42 points. Defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen returned to the Sabres lineup and posted three assists Friday.

Puck drop is at 7 p.m.

New York Islanders
45-27-6 (96 points – 3rd in Metropolitan Division, T-4th in Eastern Conference)
24-14-1 home
Buffalo Sabres
22-48-8 (52 points - 8th in Atlantic Division, 16th in Eastern Conference)
9-27-3 road
7:00  p.m.
Nassau Coliseum

Uniondale, NY

Play-by-play: Howie Rose
; Color: Butch Goring
Channel Finder

Radio: WRHU 88.7 FM, LI News Radio 103.9 FM
Play-by-play: Chris King
Islanders News:
- March Hometown Hero (Apr. 3)
- Isles TV: Wheelchair Hockey (Apr. 3)

What's Happening at the Coliseum:
- Lower Lobby Opens at 5:00
- Doors Open at 5:45
- Bobby Nystrom Award
- Decades Night Meet and Greet/Puck Drop
- Stadium Series Jerseys
Islanders player to watch
Ryan Strome - Forward

Ryan Strome brings a four-game point streak (two goals, two assists) into tonight’s contest. Strome has goals in two straight games after being put on John Tavares’ right wing. The sophomore winger is second on the team in scoring, with 49 points (17 goals, 32 assists) in 77 games this season, shattering his numbers from his rookie year.
Sabres player to watch
Brian Gionta - Forward

Brian Gionta is on a tear of late, scoring points in eight of his last 10 contests (four goals, eight assists), including a three-game point streak (one goal, four assists). The Sabres captain has recorded two points in four of his last six games, helping his team to back-to-back wins over the Arizona Coyotes and Toronto Maple Leafs.
New York Islanders previous game lines
86 Nikolay Kulemin 91 John Tavares 18 Ryan Strome
12 Josh Bailey51 Frans Nielsen – 21 Kyle Okposo
27 Anders Lee
29 Brock Nelson 15 Cal Clutterbuck
36 Eric Boulton – 
53 Casey Cizikas 17 Matt Martin


37 Brian Strait 3 Travis Hamonic
2 Nick Leddy
55 Johnny Boychuk
14 Thomas Hickey
11 Lubomir Visnovsky

41 Jaroslav Halak
30 Michal Neuvirth

Buffalo Sabres previous game lines
12 Brian Gionta - 22 Johan Larsson - 63 Tyler Ennis
44 Nicolas Deslauriers - 25 Mikhail Grigorenko - 82 Marcus Foligno
20 Zac Dalpe - 84 Phil Varone - 19 Cody Hodgson
36 Patrick Kaleta - 37 Matt Ellis - 59 Tim Schaller

47 Zach Bogosian - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
41 Andrej Meszaros - 24 Tyson Strachan
61 Andre Benoit - 51 Nikita Zadorov

35 Anders Lindback
1 Andrey Makarov

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