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Islanders, Sabres face off for first time in five months

by John Kreiser

SABRES (19-39-8) at ISLANDERS (25-34-9)


Last 10: Buffalo 4-6-0; New York 3-6-1

Season series: The Buffalo Sabres and New York Islanders haven't played each other in exactly five months. The Sabres won 4-3 in a shootout at Nassau Coliseum on Oct. 15. They play at First Niagara Center on April 13, the final day of the regular season.

Big story: The Sabres and Islanders made a major trade 12 days after their most-recent game, with Buffalo sending forward Thomas Vanek to New York for forward Matt Moulson and two high draft picks. Neither player will take part in this game; each was traded at the NHL Trade Deadline on March 5.

Team Scope:

Sabres: Buffalo is all but assured of finishing last in the overall standings, and new general manager Tim Murray loaded up on picks and prospects as the trade deadline approached, trading veterans such as Ryan Miller, Steve Ott, Cody McCormick and Moulson. The moves may pay off in the future, but the present has seen Buffalo lose four in a row after stealing a 3-1 road win against the Tampa Bay Lightning in their first game after the deadline. The defense has struggled, allowing 55 shots in a 4-2 road loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday.

Goaltender Michal Neuvirth, who played against the Hurricanes, has faced 99 shots in two starts since being acquired from the Washington Capitals at the deadline. Neuvirth and Jhonas Enroth can expect to see plenty of shots the rest of the way.

"If there's one positive thing about it, Michal, I thought he was good again," coach Ted Nolan said after the game. "The one thing our goalies are going to end up doing in the remaining 16 games we have, they're going to get a lot of good looks and fight for that position."

Islanders: New York doesn't allow nearly as many shots as the Sabres, but the Islanders have surrendered more goals than any team in the NHL. The Islanders outshot the San Jose Sharks 38-26 on Friday, but a succession of defensive mistakes and blown coverages allowed the Sharks to leave Nassau Coliseum with a 4-3 victory.

"For the most part I thought we played a strong hockey game, and a couple of mistakes in the defensive zone cost us," said forward Kyle Okposo, who assisted on two of New York's three goals. "This is kind of how it's been lately. We haven't made a ton of mistakes, but they've cost us."

Who's hot: Sabres forward Tyler Ennis had a penalty-shot goal against Carolina and has points in three straight games. … Okposo has five assists in New York's past two games and has career-highs with 26 goals and 67 points; he's eighth in the NHL in scoring.

Injury report: The Sabres are missing forwards Chris Stewart (ankle), Zemgus Girgensons (lower body) and Torrey Mitchell (lower body). Defenseman Alexander Sulzer (upper body) will miss at least a week after being injured Thursday. Tyler Myers (elbow) won't play. … Islanders center and captain John Tavares (knee) is gone for the season. Forward Michael Grabner (concussion) is out.

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