SABRES (19-19-5) at ISLANDERS (13-22-7)
TV -- MSG-B (HD), MSG PLUS (HD)
Last 10 --
Buffalo 6-3-1; New York 5-4-1
Season series --
It will be the first of four meetings between the teams. In fact, the teams will face off three times in a span of nine days, including a home-and-home set Jan. 21 in Buffalo and Jan. 23 in Uniondale. The home team was the victor in all four games last season, culminating with a 3-2 Islanders triumph via a shootout Jan. 16.
Big story --
The Islanders and Sabres were two of four teams in the League without a 2011 All-Star Game representative -- the others being Phoenix and Florida. There were two rookies, one from each team, selected to participate in the Honda SuperSkills competition on Jan. 29, however.
For the Islanders, rookie forward Michael Grabner
will join in the fun while first-year forward Tyler Ennis
will take his best shot for the Sabres.
Expect goalie Ryan Miller
to get a bulk of the starts this month with just 12 games on the slate, half of which have already been determined (4-1-1). Miller has started 20 straight games, including a 27-save effort in Thursday's 3-2 victory against the Carolina Hurricanes. The heavy workload is nothing new to Miller, who started 34 consecutive games in one stretch in 2007-08. Behind Miller is backup goalie Patrick Lalime, who is 0-4-0 with a 3.04 goals-against average and .890 save percentage in six games this season.
Despite the fact the injury-riddled Islanders are 14th in the Eastern Conference with 33 points, the team has continues to exhibit signs of life. They're 8-4-2 in their last 14 games despite a 6-4 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Thursday at Nassau Coliseum. That's certainly some good news for an organization that before this recent strong play had gone through a 1-17-3 stretch.
Who's hot --
Isles defenseman Milan Jurcina
had a goal and an assist Thursday in a loss to the Senators, giving him 4 points in four games after totaling that many over his first 20 games.
Injury report --
Isles goaltender Rick DiPietro
missed his fifth straight game Thursday with a strained groin but did skate on his own before the Isles' 6-4 loss to Ottawa. Interim coach Jack Capuano said "it's possible" DiPietro could return against Buffalo. Defenseman Mark Eaton
(hip) is out indefinitely and forward Frans Nielsen
(groin) is day-to-day. The Isles also continue to miss a number of players due to long-term injuries: defenseman Mark Streit
(shoulder surgery), forward Kyle Okposo
(shoulder surgery), forward Trent Hunter (knee surgery), center Doug Weight (back), and defensemen Radek Martinek (wrist) and Mike Mottau
(hip surgery). … Sabres forward Patrick Kaleta
is questionable with an arm injury.
Stat pack --
Buffalo right wing Jason Pominville
has rebounded well after dealing with a concussion in October. Pominville has 6 goals and 14 points in his last 16 games -- he had just 6 points in his first 18 games of the season.
Puck drop --
"No one likes being called a doormat or being considered that at this level," Islanders center John Tavares
told the media after learning an announcer on TSN had referred to his team as perennial doormats. "We've done some really good things this year. We've beaten some good teams. We've held some good players in check. We've had our own success at many different stages. I don't think we're an easy team to play against."