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Sabres-Islanders Preview @NHL
Sabres-Islanders Preview

GAME: Buffalo Sabres (11-9-1) at New York Islanders (11-10-0).

TIME: Wednesday, 7 p.m. EST.

With four wins in five games, the New York Islanders are enjoying their best stretch of the season. The player most responsible for that run will be out of the lineup for at least a month.

The Islanders play their first game without Shawn Bates when they face the Buffalo Sabres at Nassau Coliseum.

Bates has been one of the league's hottest players with eight goals in his last seven games. He is second on the Islanders with 10 goals and leads the NHL with a 35.7 shooting percentage.

After scoring twice in New York's 5-3 win Saturday over the Florida Panthers, Bates was hurt in the final moments of the game when he fell awkwardly on his right leg after a collision with Panthers forward Martin Gelinas.

Diagnosed with a hamstring injury, Bates will be sidelined four to five weeks.

Bates is also one of the team's best penalty killers.

"It is always tough to lose a key guy, especially one who was on fire," right wing Mark Parrish said. "Other guys are going to have to not only pick up the slack on the (penalty kill), but also in the offensive zone."

Bates had been playing on a line with Jason Blake and Trent Hunter. Center Oleg Kvasha, recently demoted to the fourth line, is expected to take his place.

"The logical choice, without disrupting too much, is to put (Kvasha) with Blake and Hunter," Islanders coach Steve Stirling said.

Effective penalty killing is one of the biggest reasons for New York's improved play.

The Islanders held the Panthers scoreless on six power-play chances Saturday and have killed off 36 consecutive short-handed situations, going six game without allowing a power-play goal.

Also playing well for the Islanders is captain Alexei Yashin, who has two goals and five assists during a six-game points streak.

Buffalo failed to protect a late lead in the third period and lost 3-2 to the New York Rangers in a shootout Tuesday.

The defeat ended a season-high three-game winning streak for the Sabres, who have a pair of 6-4 victories this season over the Islanders after losing all four meetings in 2003-04.

Mika Noronen was in goal Tuesday for Buffalo, but suffered a groin injury in the third period and was replaced in the shootout by Martin Biron, who will start Wednesday.

"He thought he could finish," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said of Noronen. "But when I watched the first one with him not wanting to go down, I could tell he was favoring it."

Biron is 7-3-1 with a 1.87 goals-against average and two shutouts in 11 career starts against the Islanders.

STANDINGS (through Nov. 22): Sabres - 23 points, 4th place, 9 PB, Northeast Division. Islanders - 22 points, 3rd place, 9 PB, Atlantic Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Sabres - Daniel Briere, 12 goals and 20 points; Teppo Numminen, 14 assists; Paul Gaustad, 20 PIM. Islanders - Miroslav Satan, 12 goals; Alexei Zhitnik, 15 assists; Yashin, 24 points; Janne Niinimaa, 48 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Nov. 22): Sabres - Power play: 21.6 percent (27 for 130), 4th in NHL. Penalty killing: 80.8 percent (76 for 94), tied for 21st. Islanders - Power play: 16.4 percent (22 for 134), 21st. Penalty killing: 84.2 percent (128 for 152), 10th.

GOALTENDERS: Sabres - Biron (4-4-1, 0 SO, 4.04 GAA); Michael Leighton (no appearances). Islanders - Rick DiPietro (8-8-0, 3.19); Garth Snow (3-2-0, 3.53).

SEASON SERIES: Sabres, 2-0.

LAST MEETING: Oct. 29; Sabres, 6-4. At Uniondale, N.Y., Daniel Briere, former Islander Tim Connolly and Ales Kotalik scored third-period power-play goals to lift Buffalo.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Sabres - 4-5-0 on the road; Islanders - 5-3-0 at home.

Associated Press
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