NHL Game Preview - Islanders v Sabres

 
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4:00 PM PT5:00 PM MT6:00 PM CT7:00 PM ET0:00 GMT8:00 5:00 PM MST7:00 PM EST4:00 UAE (+1)19:00 ETNaN:� BRT, February 12, 2019
KeyBank Center, Buffalo, New York  Attendance: 16,894

Islanders aim to keep win streak alive in matchup vs. Sabres

New York Islanders at Buffalo Sabres

  1. The Islanders beat the Wild, 2-1, at home on Sunday, improving to a league-best 16-3-2 since December 23. During that time, they've allowed an average of 1.62 goals per game, by far the fewest in the league (Dallas is second at 2.16).
  2. Rookie Devon Toews, who made his NHL debut on December 23 and has played in every game since, scored his fourth goal of the season, a power-play goal, which proved to be the game-winner against Minnesota. Toews saw 4:17 of power-play ice time on Sunday, the most in his career.
  3. New York got a 3-1 win when these teams met on New Year's Eve in Buffalo. The Isles are 10-2-4 against the Sabres since the 2013-14 season, with identical 5-1-2 records both home and away.
  4. The Sabres lost to the Jets, 3-1, at home on Sunday, falling to 4-7-1 in their last dozen games. They've allowed 4.08 goals per game in those games, behind only Anaheim (4.42) and Washington (4.15) in that span.
  5. Jack Eichel scored Buffalo's only goal in the loss to Winnipeg, extending his point streak to five games and his team-leading point total to 59 (18g, 41a). He appears poised to become the fifth player in franchise history to lead the team in points in three consecutive seasons (Derek Roy, Miroslav Satan, Dave Andreychuk, Gil Perreault).
  6. Of the Islanders 22 total losses this season, they've held a lead in 14 of them, meaning 63.6 percent of their losses have been via a blown lead, the highest in the league. Buffalo has 11 comeback wins, good for 20th in the NHL.

The New York Islanders have followed up one of their hottest months in years with an almost identical performance. But the Buffalo Sabres have spent the last two months undoing the margin for error they built up during a franchise record-tying 10-game winning streak.

Two teams on the opposite ends of the Eastern Conference playoff race will face each other Tuesday night, when the Sabres host the Islanders.

Both teams were off Monday after playing Sunday, when the Islanders earned their third straight win by edging the visiting Minnesota Wild, 2-1, and the host Sabres fell to the Winnipeg Jets, 3-1.

The Islanders' win ensured they would lead the Metropolitan Division by at least three points heading into Tuesday night (the second-place Washington Capitals hosted the Los Angeles Kings on Monday night) and lengthened their lead over the Carolina Hurricanes, who are in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, to 10 points.

In other words, the Islanders are all but certain to make the playoffs, just one season after missing the postseason by 17 points and then watching star center and captain John Tavares depart as a free agent for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"We're at the top of our division," Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock told Newsday. "There are all those teams below us trying to catch us. It's good, though. If we keep winning, they're not going to be able to catch us."

The Islanders haven't given division rivals much reason to hope since Dec. 15, a stretch in which they have gone 19-4-2. New York enjoyed a six-game winning streak from Dec. 23 through Jan. 5 and is 9-1-2 dating back to Jan. 13.

The Sabres' attention-getting win streak, meanwhile, has receded farther into the rear-view mirror. Buffalo surged into playoff contention by tying a franchise record with 10 straight from Nov. 8 through Nov. 27, but it is just 10-15-5 since then and has not won back-to-back games since Dec. 11-13.

Now the Sabres, who haven't reached the postseason since the 2010-11 campaign, must leapfrog multiple teams in order to get back into the top eight. Buffalo is in 10th place in the East, one point behind the Hurricanes and two points behind the final wild card, the Pittsburgh Penguins, who were scheduled to host the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday night.

"I don't know how many times we can take the moral victory anymore," Sabres center Jack Eichel said after Sunday's loss. "I mean, we're 55 games into the year. ... Other teams are getting points, moving up in the standings. We're not."

A pair of No. 1 goalies are likely to oppose each other Tuesday.

The Islanders' Robin Lehner sat out Sunday's game, when Thomas Greiss made 26 saves in the win over the Wild. Lehner last played Saturday, when he earned the victory by recording 25 saves as New York edged the Colorado Avalanche, 4-3, in overtime.

Carter Hutton took the loss for the Sabres on Sunday, when he made 26 saves.

Lehner, who spent the previous three seasons with the Sabres, is 2-1-2 in five career regular season appearances against Buffalo. Hutton is 1-1-0 in three games against the Islanders.

--Field Level Media

Updated February 11, 2019

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