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Sharpen Up: February 22, 2021 | Road trip continues against Islanders

Pregame coverage kicks off at 6:30 p.m. on MSG

by Chris Ryndak @ChrisRyndak /

From here on out, you can probably look at any stretch of the Buffalo Sabres' schedule and say, "Wow, that's a lot of games over a few days." Pull up the calendar and drop your finger on today's date. You'll see that tonight begins a run of five games in seven days. 

From now until the regular-season finale on May 8, we're looking at 42 games over 76 days. Buckle up.

The Sabres and New York Islanders go toe-to-toe tonight at NYCB Live. Faceoff is set for 7 p.m. on MSG and WGR 550. Pregame coverage starts at 6:30 on MSG.

Here's what you need to know. 


Yesterday's practice


The Sabres practiced in New Jersey yesterday without Jake McCabe, William Borgen or Rasmus Ristolainen on defense.  

Video: AFTER PRACTICE: Krueger

Midway through the third period of Saturday's win, McCabe went for a hit in the corner and went down with a lower-body injury. He flew back to Buffalo and was scheduled to undergo an MRI on Sunday.


McCabe had established himself as one of Buffalo's most reliable defenders this season.

"Jake's a guy that, he's taken a lot of strides in the last couple of years as a leader and he's somebody I have a lot of respect for and all the guys have a lot of respect for in that room," fellow alternate captain Kyle Okposo said.

"I don't know what the final prognosis is yet, but he's going to be a guy that's dearly missed on and off the ice. He does everything right. Blocks a lot of shots, he's there for guys, he's fought this year. I mean, he's just a high-character guy. He's gonna be missed for sure."

Borgen missed practice with an upper-body injury, but coach Ralph Krueger considers him day-to-day. 

Buffalo defeated the Devils 3-2 on Saturday with Sam Reinhart scoring twice.

Ristolainen was placed on the NHL's COVID-related absence list on February 2 and although he was removed from protocol on February 16, he's still making his way back to game shape. In an interview with a Finnish newspaper, Ristolainen detailed his sever bout with COVID, explaining that he's experienced chest pains and has had trouble walking up and down stairs. There is no timetable set for his return. 

Defensemen Jacob Bryson and Casey Fitzgerald were added to the taxi squad late yesterday afternoon.  


At forward, Casey Mittelstadt could be in for Jeff Skinner. Mittelstadt practiced on a line with Curtis Lazar and Riley Sheahan, while Skinner worked with Rasmus Asplund and Tage Thompson.

Krueger did not confirm whether the practice lineup would stick for the game against the Islanders, but said decisions will be based on what the coaching staff deems best for the team.

"I have a lot of respect for the noise certain decisions will make," Krueger said. "In the end, quite clearly, my role's not to be popular here but to be respected at the end of the day, whatever reckoning is on the table. It's the way we like to lead out of the coaching room here, striving for honesty within accountability and also hopefully getting players to their potential in the end is my job, is our job. 

"We do strive for that. When we make hard decisions, they're not necessarily short-term, 'Will they make everybody happy?' But hopefully it pushes the right buttons in the individuals to have them fulfill the roles that we expect. We have expectations on each and every player in this group and … the respect for players, for their seniority, is there. But at the same time, accountability needs to be at the top of the fold for us as we develop here the Buffalo Sabres into that regularly competitive group."

Video: AFTER PRACTICE: Skinner

Mittelstadt, who is currently on the taxi squad, has one assist in two games this season. He found himself in the NHL's COVID protocol from February 7 until February 17, sharing afterwards that he had tested positive and experienced mild symptoms. He has not played since January 31. 

Skinner has one assist through 14 games and is fifth on the team with 31 shots on goal. 

Tonight's matchup

Buffalo is 0-2-0 against the Islanders this season. The clubs last faced each other on back-to-back nights a week ago in Buffalo. The Islanders won those games 3-1 and 3-0. 

Due to a slew of rescheduled dates, they'll face each other three times next week on Long Island (on March 4, 6 and 7).

Stay tuned for updates from Buffalo's morning skate. We'll have updates for you here on, our social media channels and the new Sabres app

Here are some stats and factoids from @SabresPR's Game Notes:

  • Buffalo's penalty kill is 18-for-20 (90.0%) in the team's last 11 games against the Islanders.


    • Buffalo currently has the fourth-ranked power play in the league. The team has scored on 15 of its 46 power-play opportunities this season for a 32.6 percent conversion rate.
    • The Sabres have scored at least one power-play goal in eight of their last nine games, going 12-for-29 (41.1%) in those contests.


    • Taylor Hall has recorded 18 points (9+9) in his 18 games against the Islanders dating back to the beginning of the 2013-14 season.
    • Jack Eichel has totaled 10 points (3+7) in his 10 meetings with the Islanders since the beginning of the 2017-18 season.
    • Victor Olofsson has scored in three of his five career games against the Islanders.


    • Linus Ullmark is 3-2-1 in six career games against the Islanders with a .922 save percentage and a 2.16 goals-against average.


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