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Sharpen Up: May 4, 2021 | Sabres set to play final home game of season

Pregame coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. on MSG

by Chris Ryndak @ChrisRyndak /

Coming off a win in his NHL debut, it'll be Michael Houser between the pipes once again tonight. 

Houser made 34 saves in his first professional game on Thursday to backstop Buffalo to a 4-2 win over the New York Islanders.

The two clubs will go at it again tonight at KeyBank Center. Faceoff is set for 7 p.m. on MSG and WGR 550 with pregame coverage on MSG starting at 6:30. 

It's the final game Buffalo will play at KeyBank this season. They'll wrap up the 2020-21 campaign with road games in Pittsburgh on Thursday and Saturday.

Here's what you need to know.


Houser's big night

Video: Reinhart, Houser help Sabres to 4-2 comeback victory

We have lots for you in our Postgame Report.  

Monday marked the first game Houser had played since March 7, 2020 when he backed the Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL to a 1-0 win. 

Video: POSTGAME: Houser

He was still catching his breath when he arrived for his media session after the game.

"I'm not really in that great of game shape either, I'll admit that," he joked. "… After the game celebrating and everything, I could barely breathe."

Houser became the sixth goalie to start a game for the Sabres this season. It is just the third time in franchise history Buffalo has had six different goalies play at least one game (1988-89, 2013-14).

Houser has been a steady ECHL starter for the past four seasons and won that league's Goaltender of the Year award in 2018-19 while with the Cyclones. 

To say his path to the NHL has required patience is an understatement. He hadn't even played in an AHL game since 2017-18.

"I know it's so cliché, but they always tell you to stay ready," he said. "I've taken that to heart the last few years, mostly for a chance to play for the Amerks and take that net, if I ever had the chance to do that. Just being a weird year, I kind of skipped that step and got this game."

Video: POSTGAME: Granato

Video: Sabres goaltending development coach on pregame show

He's just the seventh Sabres goalie to win their NHL debut and the first since Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen on April 23.

Houser's victory marked just the third time in franchise history that two goaltenders made their NHL debuts in the same season. Rocky Farr and Gary Bromley made their debuts in 1973-74, and rookies Don Edwards and Bob Sauve played their first games in 1976-77.

Linus Ullmark, Carter Hutton and Luukkonen are all currently out due to injury. 

Dustin Tokarski is dealing with a family issue, according to Granato, and may once again be unavailable to serve as the backup. Rochester Americans goaltender Stefanos Lekkas signed a PTO on Monday and was Buffalo's No. 2 goalie for the game. 

Reinhart's big season (so far)

In the win last night, Sam Reinhart scored twice and added an assist (Tage Thompson and Rasmus Asplund also scored).

Video: POSTGAME: Thompson

Video: POSTGAME: Ristolainen

In the third period, Reinhart set up Asplund's tying goal, tipped in the game-winning goal and then added an empty netter to secure the two points. 

He has scored eight goals in his last six games and has 14 points (11+3) in his last 11 games dating back to April 15. He has recorded six of the Sabres' eight multi-goal performances this season and is the only Sabre to have two three-point games.

Video: NYI@BUF: Reinhart redirects go-ahead goal home late

Reinhart has 25 goals in 50 games this season, tying his career high, which he set in 82 games during the 2017-18 season. He is one of 15 players in franchise history to have at least five 20-goal seasons with the Sabres.

He is one of five players in the league this season to score double digit even-strength and power-play goals.


Tonight's matchup

Let's see what @SabresPR has cooked up in the Game Notes:

  • This is the eighth and final meeting between the Sabres and Islanders this season.
  • Last meeting: Buffalo defeated New York 4-2 in Buffalo on May 3.
  • The Sabres are 1-8-1 in their last 10 games vs. the Islanders; 4-6-0 at home.
  • This is the 181st game all-time between Buffalo and New York; Buffalo has an 83-72-25 series record.


  • The Sabres are looking for consecutive home wins against the Islanders for the first time since they won three in a row from Dec. 27, 2008 to Nov. 4, 2009.


  • Casey Mittelstadt has recorded six points (2+4) in his last six games. He has totaled 16 points (9+7) in his last 19 games dating back to March 31.
  • His nine goals are second on the team in that span, trailing only Sam Reinhart (13).


  • Since making his NHL debut on April 9, Arttu Ruotsalainen is tied for fourth among rookies in goals (5) and tied for 10 in points (6).


  • Rasmus Asplund enters the game riding a career-high three-game point streak (1+2).


  • Today's game wraps up the final of Buffalo's 14 sets of back-to-back games this season, which began last night in Buffalo with a 4-2 win against the Islanders. 
  • The Sabres are 4-10-0 in the first game of back-to-back sets and 3-9-1 in the second game so far this season. 
  • Buffalo's point breakdown in previous back-to-back sets is: four points (0), three points (1), two points (5), one point (0) and zero points (7).

Today in Sabres history 

Watch: Youtube Video
2007: Chris Drury scores the game-tying goal with 7.7 seconds remaining in the third period and Maxim Afinogenov nets the game-winner 4:39 into overtime to give the Sabres a 3-2 series lead in their Eastern Conference Semifinal series with the Rangers.

Read more from our Sabres Classics series here.

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