Preview: Islanders at Sabres
The red-hot New York Islanders play the only road contest during a seven-game stretch and look to match their longest winning streak in almost years when they visit the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night. The Islanders received a goal and two assists from captain Anders Lee in Friday’s 5-2 victory over Tampa Bay to extend their winning streak to eight games after losing three of their first four contests of the season.
Center Mathew Barzal continued to produce, scoring his sixth goal in seven games Friday, and tying linemate Josh Bailey for the team lead with 11 points while New York limited an opponent to two tallies or fewer for the ninth time in 12 outings this season. The Islanders have surrendered 16 goals combined during their winning streak and scored at least four in each of the past four contests after earning three victories in overtime or the shootout in the first half of the historic run. The Sabres, who head to Sweden for two games against Tampa Bay following Saturday’s contest, are beginning to go in the opposite direction with three losses in their last four outings (1-2-1) after permitting four goals in the first 10:44 on Friday en route to a 6-1 loss at Washington. “I just think our game’s slipping a little bit,” right wing Kyle Okposo told the Buffalo News. “. … I think we just have to get back to basics. Hopefully it’s a wakeup call and (Saturday) night come ready to play.”
TV: 7 p.m. ET, MSG Plus (New York), MSG (Buffalo)
ABOUT THE ISLANDERS (9-3-0): Lee registered his fifth goal Friday, one behind Barzal for the team lead, and center Derick Brassard scored for the fourth straight game and added an assist in the victory over Tampa Bay. New York has not received much help from its power play during the winning streak - its longest since the nine-game run Dec. 31, 1989 to Jan. 19, 1990 - while converting twice in 12 tries but are 15-of-16 on the penalty kill the past five contests. Thomas Greiss made 33 saves for his fifth win Friday and Semyon Varlamov (4-2-0, .918 save percentage) is slated to be in net Saturday.
ABOUT THE SABRES (9-3-2): Captain Jack Eichel did not have fun during his 300th game Friday, posting a minus-3 rating and getting blanked on four shots, but the 23-year-old center leads the club with 17 points. Defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, who will get a heroes welcome in his native Sweden next weekend, tied Eichel for the team lead with his 10th assist Friday and matched forward Sam Reinhart for second on the team with 11 points. Linus Ullmark absorbed his third loss with 28 saves Friday and that should give Carter Hutton (6-1-1, 2.21 goals-against average, .926 SP) the start against the Islanders.
1. Buffalo D Henri Jokiharju scored his first NHL goal Friday in his 52nd career game - 14 with the Sabres this season.
2. New York’s veteran RW Cal Clutterbuck, who has two assists this season, is slated to play his 800th NHL game Saturday.
3. Sabres D Rasmus Ristolainen is one point from 200 for his career, but has been kept off the scoresheet in four straight contests.
PREDICTION: Sabres 3, Islanders 2