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Islanders seek first win against Sabres @NHLdotcom

ISLANDERS (0-1-3) at SABRES (3-0-1)

Season series -- It's the first meeting of the season between the two teams. The clubs split four games last season, with each winning once at home and on the road. The two losses to the 30th-place Islanders were a big reason the Sabres came up short of a playoff berth. The teams have split their last 10 meetings.

Big Story -- The Sabres are flying high in the early going. They are the only team in the East that hasn't lost a game in regulation and come into this one riding a three-game winning streak in which they've allowed only three goals -- two of which came in Tuesday night's 6-2 blowout win over the Detroit Red Wings.

In contrast, the Islanders are still looking for their first win. They got a point in each of their first three games (one loss in OT and two in shootouts) before losing 2-1 in regulation to Los Angeles on Monday.

Team Scope:

Islanders -- He didn't get a point against Los Angeles on Monday, but four games into his NHL career, John Tavares has shown he's more than capable of competing in the NHL as a 19-year-old. Tavares has 2 goals and 5 points in four games, and the line of Tavares, up-and-coming Kyle Okposo and journeyman Matt Moulson is easily the Isles' best. They're a threat to score any time they're on the ice.

"He has great composure, great awareness,” Kings coach Terry Murray said of the No. 1 pick in last June's Entry Draft after Monday's game. “He’s able to find the right places to be in order to be an offensive producer."

Sabres -- The defense and goaltending have been solid all season in Buffalo, so coach Lindy Ruff was glad to see the offense get untracked in the victory over the Wings. A four-goal second period equaled the team's entire production in the first three games and made life a lot easier for goaltender Ryan Miller.

"We finally exploded," he said. "We weren't getting the goals the first few games, but that's what we're capable of with this system."

Who's Hot -- Miller has been nearly unbeatable this season. He's allowed just five goals in Buffalo's four games and was sharp in the 6-2 win over Detroit on Tuesday. Okposo, who's raised his game several notches in his second NHL season, has at least one point in all five of the Islanders' games.

Injury Report -- The Sabres took a big hit on Tuesday when Thomas Vanek left in the second period; he wiped out into the end boards after scoring his second goal of the night and didn't return. The Sabres say he has an upper-body injury but might be closer to returning than the "weeks" coach Lindy Ruff said he'd miss. Vanek practiced Thursday but is doubtful for this one. The Islanders are still without forward Trent Hunter (chest muscle), center Frans Nielsen (knee surgery) and goaltender Rick DiPietro, who hasn't played yet as he recovers from knee surgery.

Stat Pack -- One way to be successful -- shoot the puck and don't let the opposition fire away at your goaltender. It's worked for the Sabres, who are averaging a League-high 38.2 shots per game per game while allowing just 22.8, second to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Puck Drop -- The Islanders lost two games via shootout after leading in the third period, including a 4-3 loss at Boston in which they led 3-0 with just over eight minutes remaining. As was the case last season, they have yet to show that they can close out games, and the longer they go without winning, the more trouble they're going to have breaking out of their rut.

-- John Kreiser,




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