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GAME: Buffalo Sabres (28-26-6-1) at New York Islanders (28-22-8-2).

TIME: Saturday, 7 p.m. EST.

The Buffalo Sabres are showing the poise of a veteran team, even if they are the youngest squad in the NHL.

The Sabres will have their character tested once again when they take on the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum in an Eastern Conference matchup with serious playoff implications.

Buffalo, which has 11 players born in 1979 or later and just two older than 30, has won 10 of its last 13 games (10-2-1) to move within three points of the Islanders and Montreal Canadiens for seventh place in the East with 21 games to play.

The Sabres blew a two-goal lead in the final 1:43 of regulation Friday, but bounced back to edge Southeast Division-leading Tampa Bay 4-3 on Daniel Briere's goal with 1:59 left in overtime.

"We won a game where we didn't play particularly our best game," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "But no one's going to quit. We made the right play at the right time to win the game."

Miroslav Satan, who at 29 is the third-oldest player on the team, has led by example over the last 13 games, registering nine goals and eight assists.

Satan scored twice and added an assist Friday as the Sabres ran their unbeaten streak to six (5-0-1), during which they have outscored their opponents 28-14.

However, the Sabres have dropped their last five against the Islanders (0-3-0-2), including three straight at Nassau Coliseum.

The Islanders are coming off one of their worst efforts in weeks as they fell behind by three goals early in their 6-2 loss to the archrival Rangers on Thursday. The defeat ended the Isles' five-game unbeaten streak (2-0-3) and prevented them from holding on to sole possession of seventh place.

"When you make two turnovers like we did, to fall behind like that, to give up a couple of gifts, I can't fault the goalie," said Islanders coach Steve Stirling, whose team has lost just four of its last 17 (8-3-5-1).

One of the few bright spots for the Islanders on Thursday was their continued excellence on the penalty kill as they held the Rangers scoreless in four tries. The Islanders have killed 65 of the last 70 short-handed situations (92.9 percent) and are now fifth overall in the league.

The Islanders' 66 points in 60 games equals their second-best total at this stage of the season in the last 18 campaigns. The Isles had 68 points in 60 games in 2001-02.

Isles forward Mariusz Czerkawski has six goals, five assists and a plus-5 rating in the last eight games.

STANDINGS: Sabres - 63 points, 5th place, 15 PB, Northeast Division. Islanders - 66 points, 3rd place, 12 PB, Atlantic Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Sabres - Satan, 24 goals; Briere, 28 assists and 49 points; Andrew Peters, 107 PIM. Islanders - Trent Hunter, 22 goals and 42 points; Oleg Kvasha and Adrian Aucoin, 27 assists; Eric Cairns, 139 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Feb. 19): Sabres - Power play: 15.6 percent (41 for 263), 18th (tied) in NHL. Penalty killing: 85.6 percent (225 for 263), 3rd (tied). Islanders - Power play: 17.5 percent (42 for 240), 9th. Penalty killing: 85.5 percent (230 for 269), 5th.

GOALTENDERS: Sabres - Mika Noronen (11-13-2, 2 SO, 2.16 GAA); Martin Biron (17-11-4, 2.52). Islanders - Rick DiPietro (14-11-4, 2, 2.31); Garth Snow (14-13-4, 1, 2.72).

SEASON SERIES: Islanders, 2-0.

LAST MEETING: Jan. 17; Islanders, 4-2. At Uniondale, N.Y., Kenny Jonsson had a goal and assist, and the Islanders scored three power-play goals in the win. Chris Taylor and James Patrick scored for the Sabres.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Sabres - 11-16-2-0 on the road; Islanders - 20-8-2-0 at home.

Associated Press
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