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Sabres, Islanders try to end on positive note

by Davis Harper

ISLANDERS (33-37-11) at SABRES (21-51-9)


Last 10: New York 6-2-2; Buffalo 1-8-1

Season series: This is the third game of the season between the Buffalo Sabres and New York Islanders, and the only one at First Niagara Center. The in-state rivals split the first two, with the Islanders winning 4-1 in the most recent meeting, at Nassau Coliseum on March 15.

Big story: The Islanders and Sabres hope to head into an early offseason on a high note when they face off Sunday. The Islanders enter the game with consecutive wins over the Montreal Canadiens and New Jersey Devils despite dressing 11 rookies in both games. The injury-riddled Sabres have lost six straight and 18 of their past 21.

Team Scope:

Islanders: The Islanders have reeled off two straight road wins, giving them 20 victories away from Long Island for the eighth time in franchise history.

New York scored a 3-2 shootout win Friday against the Devils. The Islanders fought back with a third-period goal from Ryan Strome, then took the shootout courtesy of back-to-back spin-o-rama moves by Josh Bailey and Strome.

"In a shootout, guys use their skill," coach Jack Capuano said. "After we watched Steven Stamkos beat us down in Tampa, guys worked on it [the move] in practice."

Sabres: The Sabres have lost 288 man-games to injury this season, and after a 4-1 loss to the Boston Bruins on Saturday, they can add some more to that total. Goaltender Matt Hackett, who has been playing due to injuries to Jhonas Enroth and Michal Neuvirth, left the ice on a stretcher after colliding with Boston defenseman Torey Krug.

"It doesn't look good right now," coach Ted Nolan said of Hackett's right leg injury. "We're going to wrap him up as best as we can and get him back home, get our doctors to look at him, but it doesn't look too good right now."

Connor Knapp, who was called up on Friday, made his NHL debut after Hackett was injured. Knapp is the sixth goalie to play for the Sabres this season.

The Sabres also lost forwards Chris Stewart (ankle), Brian Flynn (lower body) and Matt D'Agostini (lower body), and defenseman Christian Ehrhoff (concussion) to injury on Saturday. None is expected to play against the Islanders, according to the Buffalo News.

Who's hot: Strome has two goals in his past two games. … Sabres forward Drew Stafford has three points (one goal, two assists) in his past three games, and has an assist in each game against the Islanders this season.

Injury report: The Islanders are without center John Tavares (knee), forwards Johan Sundstrom (neck), Cal Clutterbuck (upper body), Michael Grabner (concussion) and Kyle Okposo (lower body), and defensemen Calvin de Haan (leg) and Lubomir Visnovsky (concussion). ... In addition to the players injured Saturday, the Sabres are missing goaltenders Neuvirth (lower body), Enroth (leg) and Nathan Lieuwen (concussion), center Zenon Konopka (back), and defensemen Chad Ruhwedel (concussion), Tyler Myers (middle body) and Alexander Sulzer (upper body).

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