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Sabres-Islanders Preview

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Maybe a visit to Long Island will help the Buffalo Sabres snap out of their January doldrums.

The Eastern Conference-leading Sabres try to defeat the New York Islanders for the seventh consecutive time as the teams face off Saturday.

The Islanders (22-21-5) dominated the Sabres (33-13-4) not so long ago, winning the final seven meetings between the clubs prior to the lockout which canceled the 2004-05 season. Buffalo has taken six straight matchups since the lockout, though, including a 3-0 win at Nassau Coliseum on Oct. 26 and 3-1 at Buffalo on New Year's Day.

The Jan. 1 victory was the fourth straight overall for the Sabres, who were 29-7-3 at that point. They have stumbled to a 4-6-1 mark since, including a 3-2 loss at Columbus on Friday in the first game after the All-Star break.

Buffalo outshot the Blue Jackets 15-4 in the second period but emerged with just a one-goal lead, which it squandered in the final session. The Sabres fell to 24-2-2 when leading after two periods.

"You can't sit back. We made a couple of mistakes and they took advantage of them," said Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff, whose team's 70 points are still five ahead of New Jersey for the Eastern Conference lead. "We had our opportunities to put them away but we didn't. We spent the whole second period in their end. When you have nine or 10 opportunities to score, you need to put two or three away and we didn't."

Chris Drury scored both goals for the Sabres, but saw his bid to tie the game denied on a glove save by Fredrik Norrena with 16 seconds remaining. All-Star game MVP Daniel Briere assisted on both scores.

Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller has stopped 58 of 59 shots in the two victories over the Isles this season, while Maxim Afinogenov has one goal and one assist in each contest.

In the six meetings between the teams since the lockout, Afinogenov has five goals and four assists.

While the Sabres couldn't hold on to a slim lead Friday night, the Islanders couldn't win after falling far behind early. New York rallied from a three-goal, first-period deficit to tie the Atlanta Thrashers, but ultimately fell 5-4 when Ilya Kovalchuk scored 2:59 into overtime.

The Islanders have been outscored 54-37 in the first period this season.

"We've got to start better," said defenseman Chris Campoli, who tied the score at 4 with 13:57 left in the third period with his first goal of the season. "You can't let a team like that get up 3-0. We battled all game, showed a lot of character and proved we're a good hockey team. ... But tonight, it was just too much, I guess."

New York starting goalie Rick DiPietro allowed three goals on five shots in the game's first 5:35, then was replaced by Mike Dunham.

"You make that decision more to shock the team than anything else," coach Ted Nolan said.

The Islanders, who are 3-8-2 in their last 13 games overall, are trying to avoid their fifth consecutive home defeat. They have not won at Nassau Coliseum since a 2-0 victory over the New York Rangers on Dec. 26.

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