Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Buffalo Sabres Pregame Skate: New York Islanders

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Through eleven games, the Buffalo Sabres have the fewest amount of wins, and the most losses in the Northeast Division, good enough for last place.  They are the only team left in the division that has not hit double digit points.  They have zero games in hand against divisional opponents.  Despite being in last place in the division, the team ranks 3rd in the conference in scoring, behind only the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning.  The difference between those three teams, the Buffalo Sabres have a -6 goal differential, Pittsburgh has a +13, Tampa Bay a +15.

They can rectify that tonight by building on the overtime win against the Montreal Canadiens – by skating into Nassau Coliseum for the only time this year, and for one of the final three visits to the historic arena before the New York Islanders move into Brooklyn to play at the Barclay Center.

Thursday nights game against Montreal was a step in the right direction – it was a comeback win against a team that absolutely embarrased them previously.

The New York Islanders are a good opponent for the Buffalo Sabres to play this weekend, because it gives them the chance to string a couple of wins together.  The Islanders and Sabres share a similar record, 4-5-1 for New York, and 4-6-1 for the Sabres.  Familiar territory for the Islanders – getting to be familiar territory for the Sabres.  Both teams are stuck in a five way tie for just above the Washington Capitals who hold last place in the division, the Philadelphia Flyers, Florida Panthers, and Winnipeg Jets join the Sabres and Islanders with 9 points.  A win tonight could see the Sabres surge from fourteenth in the conference, to as high as eight,

The Montreal game gave the Buffalo Sabres plenty to build on, especially with some of the offensive players starting to light fires.  While the Buffalo Sabres look to start a winning streak for the first time since the start of the season, New York is on a three game skid that sees them floundering in the standings.

Islanders head coach Jack Capuano‘s comments after the last New York loss sums up the storylines for both clubs –

“I’m disappointed with some guys’ battle level tonight, our power play killed our momentum. Absolutely destroyed it. We were slow, deliberate going back to get pucks. That deflates your bench.”

Both teams could be getting some help – the Buffalo Sabres blue line appears to be getting healthier.  Andrej Sekera and Robyn Regehr are closer to being reinserted to the lineup.  Getting a healthy defensive corp will go a long ways in getting the team on board with the system that seems to be lacking on all fronts this year.  Sekera should see the ice tonight, Regehr could be back tomorrow against the Boston Bruins.

For the New York Islanders – defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky could be making his NHL debut tonight – Visnovsky was officially traded to the New York hockey club on the first day of the 2012 draft, but has sought ways to nullify the deal – even trying to stay in the KHL.  He has finally reported to Islanders camp and could make his debut this weekend.  This would be the second team the Buffalo Sabres have played getting a fresh face on the blue line, as they face P.K. Subban in his first game of the season after a short contract dispute.

Game time is scheduled for 7PM.

Out of town score board watch.  The Buffalo Sabres are only one point out of the top eight in the conference, and could jump from 14th to as high as eighth tonight.  Aside from the teams tied with the Buffalo Sabres for next to last place – the New York Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes stand between the Buffalo Sabres and the playoff picture.  The Rangers are off today, but the Carolina Hurricanes face the Philadelphia Flyer this afternoon, gametime of 1PM.

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Tags: Buffalo Sabres New York Islanders

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