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Sabres wrap up season vs. playoff-bound Islanders

by John Kreiser

ISLANDERS (24-17-6) at SABRES (20-21-6)


Last 10: New York 6-1-3; Buffalo 6-4-0

Season series: It's the last of three meetings; the road team won the first two.

Big story: The New York Islanders and Buffalo Sabres finish their regular seasons at First Niagara Center -- but for the first time since 2007, the Islanders' season will last a little longer. They clinched a playoff berth earlier this week, and a victory could move them as high as sixth in the Eastern Conference, depending on what the Ottawa Senators and New York Rangers do.

Team Scope:

Islanders: New York had visions of climbing as high as fifth in the East, but that was before a flat effort Thursday night produced a 2-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers and dropped the Islanders from sixth to eighth. John Tavares had the lone goal and backup goaltender Kevin Poulin looked sharp, but the Islanders looked a step slow as they lost in regulation for the first time in 12 games this month.

New York is 0-1-1 this week after an 8-0-2 run carried the Islanders into the playoffs.

"We're not going to blow it up into a big story," defenseman Travis Hamonic said. "It's frustrating. Look at our last 15 or 20 games or so, I think we've done a lot of really good things. So heading into the playoffs, we've got one more big game."

Sabres: Buffalo will miss the playoffs for the second year in a row, but the Sabres haven't stopped playing hard. They've had two nights off since a 4-2 road victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins and have accounted for two of the Eastern Conference leaders' three losses during a 22-3-0 run.

"Obviously we wanted to be in the playoffs, but that's not going to happen. But guys want to make sure they finish strong," coach Ron Rolston said.

Who's hot: Tavares has four goals and five points in New York's past three games. Starting goaltender Evgeni Nabokov leads the NHL with 14 road victories. … Thomas Vanek had two of Buffalo's four goals in Pittsburgh to reach the 20-goal mark. He has four goals in the Sabres' past four games.

Injury report: The Islanders report no injuries, though coach Jack Capuano will have to decide if he wants to sit any of his regulars in the second half of a back-to-back. … Buffalo is without defensemen Patrick Kaleta (hand), Tyler Myers (leg) and Alexander Sulzer (knee surgery), as well as forward Ville Leino (upper body).

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