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Preview: Islanders at Sabres

by Cory Wright / New York Islanders

NEW YORK ISLANDERS (20-12-5) VS. BUFFALO SABRES (15-18-4)

6 P.M. FIRST NIAGARA CENTER, MSG+, CHANNEL FINDERWNYE 91.5 FM, WRHU 88.7 FM, LI NEWS 103.9 FM

FOUR THINGS:

1. ON THE OFFENSIVE:

The Islanders offense broke out Tuesday, scoring six goals for the first time since a 6-3 win over the San Jose Sharks on Oct. 17. The Islanders got goals from all four lines, which Jack Capuano shuffled ahead of the game. John Tavares ended a five-game goalless streak, while Anders Lee busted out of a 15-game drought. Frans Nielsen, Nikolay Kulemin, Brock Nelson and Matt Martin also scored for the Islanders. 

2. PENALTY KILL:

The Islanders currently boast the NHL’s best penalty kill at 87.7%. The shorthanded unit was 4-for-4 on Tuesday night, extending its streak to 35-for-35 over a franchise-record 15 games. What’s the secret? Frans Nielsen said it’s the players being more familiar with Assistant Coach Greg Cronin (who runs the Islanders penalty kill) and his system. Head coach Jack Capuano has his own input, but agrees that continuity is playing a factor. 

“We’ve won more faceoffs. I think we’ve cleared the puck more 200 ft. Our goaltenders have played much better, they understand the system we want to play where the shots are coming from,” Capuano said. “We’ve cleared the crease pretty well. And we’re a little bit more aggressive. We change our PK forecheck every now and then depending on who we play. Having the consistency of our six guys, to roll those guys… gives us some consistency that way as far as our penalty kill.”

3. JACK EICHEL: 

The Islanders get their second look at Jack Eichel, the second-overall pick in June’s draft, after meeting once in a 2-1 loss on November 1. Eichel, the reigning Hobey Baker Award winner for college hockey’s top player, came into the league with a ton of fanfare and is enjoying a nice season with 22 points (11G, 11A) in 37 games. Eichel, a native of North Chelmsford, MA, had a stellar homecoming on Saturday, scoring four points (2G, 2A) against the Boston Bruins and is coming off a two-assist game vs. Washington.  

4. RYAN O'REILLY: 

Tim Murray aggressively restocked the Sabres roster in the offseason and one of his biggest acquisitions was bringing in Ryan O’Reilly. O’Reilly leads the Sabres in goals (14), assists (18) and points (32) and is scoring at a career-best pace (0.86 points-per-game). 

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