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Islanders seek to end slide vs. Sabres

by Matthew Mankiewich

SABRES (4-6-1) at ISLANDERS (4-5-1)


Last 10: Buffalo 3-6-1, New York 4-5-1

Season series: First of three, and the only one at Nassau Coliseum. Last season's series was split both home and away, with the Islanders grabbing an additional point in a shootout loss a year ago this week.

Big story: Both teams need a win, the Islanders to stop a three-game losing streak and get back in the Atlantic Division race, the Sabres to build on Thursday's victory against the Montreal Canadiens, which ended a three-game slide. It's also important for the Islanders to put on a good show for the diehard fans who will weather blizzard conditions to make it to the Coliseum, where they're 1-3-0 so far.

Team Scope:

Sabres: The fans at First Niagara Center were near the breaking point. With the Sabres down 4-3 to the Canadiens late in the third period, they began to rain boos on the team that went into the matchup 1-6-1 in their prior eight games. Thomas Vanek, who earlier brought the Sabres within a goal on the power play, would not give up on a puck in front of the Canadiens net, pushing it in with two seconds left in regulation to force overtime and a shootout, giving Buffalo a chance to pull out a 5-4 win.

Home wins had become so rare, though, that initially the players didn't know what to do. Captain Jason Pominville was able to herd them back onto center ice for a postgame stick salute.

"I just think we forgot about it because we hadn't won at home for a while," goaltender Ryan Miller said to the Buffalo News. "It was a little bit clunky, like the game, but eventually we all got out there."

Islanders: It's looking all too familiar to Islanders fans. The team started 4-1-2 in 2010-11 before going on a season-killing 1-17-3 freefall, then 3-1-0 the following season before a 2-12-4 cliff dive. This current losing streak is at a mere three games, but all three losses were to divisional opponents, and a power play that towered above all others in the first week is in a 0-for-19 hole. Worst of all, they faced another struggling team, the New York Rangers, on Thursday night, and failed to take advantage, sleepwalking through a 4-1 defeat at Madison Square Garden.

"Some guys played tentative, some guys didn't take hits to make plays," coach Jack Capuano said. "I'm disappointed with some guys' battle level tonight.

"Our power play killed our momentum. Absolutely destroyed it. We were slow, deliberate going back to get pucks. That deflates your bench."

Said defenseman Andrew McDonald, "For us to be successful, we have to have 18 guys and a goalie all on the same page, working harder than any other team. That's the only way we're going to get anywhere."

Who's hot: It's been "Must See T.V." for the Sabres all season -- Vanek has logged points in every game save one, this past Tuesday at the Ottawa Senators. He's already had five multipoint games, including pair of five-point outings. The payoff is a League-leading 10 goals and 21 points, not to mention ranking second to Patrick Marleau in power-play goals with four. ... Islanders forward John Tavares scored the lone goal against the Rangers and leads the Islanders with 12 points. Linemate Matt Moulson has points in five of his past six games.

Injury report: Sabres defensemen Andrej Sekera and Robyn Regehr (each lower body) have been progressing and may be ready to go Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Forward Patrick Kaleta (neck) is itching to get back into the lineup but remains day-to-day. ... Islanders defenseman Matt Carkner (lower body) was placed on injured reserve Friday. Forward Josh Bailey (knee) is expected to make his season debut Saturday; defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky, who finally reported to the team this week, practiced Friday and may dress .

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