NEW YORK ISLANDERS (45-26-9) VS. BUFFALO SABRES (34-36-11)
7:30 P.M. BARCLAYS CENTER, MSG, WNYE 91.5 FM, WRHU 88.7 FM, LI NEWS 103.9 FM, BUY TICKETS
- FAN APPRECIATION WEEKEND
MORNING SKATE UPDATES:
1. ISLES-SABRES III:
After splitting the first two games of their season series, the Islanders and Sabres meet for the final time this season on Saturday night at Barclays Center. So far, the road team has won both games, with the Islanders and Sabres each winning close 2-1 games.
2. WHAT IT MEANS:
The Islanders can finish in one of two positions; either third in the Metropolitan Division, or in the first wild card.
They finish third in the Metro if:
-They gain three points over their next two games
-They gain two points over their next two games AND the New York Rangers lose to Detroit in overtime/shootout
-They gain one point over their next two games AND the Rangers lose to Detroit in regulation
They finish in the first wild card if:
-They lose their next two games in regulation
-They gain two points over the next two games (1-1-0, 0-0-2) AND the Rangers beat Detroit
-They gain one point over the next two games AND the Rangers get one point vs. Detroit
If the Islanders finish third in the Metro, they will play the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round. If they finish in the wild card, they will play the Florida Panthers.
3. ANDERS LEE OUT INDEFINITELY:
The Islanders have lost Anders Lee for the forseeable future after he suffered a broken left fibula in Thursday’s 4-1 win over the Rangers. Lee, who was in his usual spot in front of the net, was struck by a Johnny Boychuk slap shot in the first period.
At 6’3, 228 lbs. the Islanders lose one of their biggest forwards and their most effective net-front presence. A majority of Lee’s 15 goals this season have come via deflection or hanging around the goalmouth, while he’s assisted – either directly or indirectly – by creating havoc in front of the net.
Lee joins Jaroslav Halak and Travis Hamonic as key Islanders with significant lower-body injuries, while Mikhail Grabovski is currently sidelined with a concussion. Matt Martin, Cal Clutterbuck and Brian Strait all sat out Thursday’s game with the Rangers.
4. TAVARES TIME:
In three of the Islanders most important games of the season, John Tavares has been their best offensive player. Tavares has eight points (3G, 5A) as the Islanders have scored three straight wins over the Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals and New York Rangers, all playoff-bound teams. The Islanders’ captain also potted two goals against the Columbus Blue Jackets on March 31, giving him four multi-point nights in his last five games. Tavares leads the Islanders with 32 goals and 69 points.
5. SABRES IMPROVING:
After finishing last the NHL a year ago with 23 wins and 54 points, the Buffalo Sabres have taken steps forward this season. The Sabres have 34 wins and 79 points this season, both substantial increases over last season.
The Sabres overhaul over the summer led to the jump in wins and points, as three of the team’s top five scorers – Ryan O’Reilly, Jack Eichel and Evander Kane – all debuted for Buffalo this season. O’Reilly leads the team with 59 points (21G, 38A) while Eichel has a team-high 24 goals in his rookie season.
The Sabres are looking to end the season on a high note, having won six of their last 10 games.