EASTERN CONFERENCE QUARTERFINALS GAME ONE PREVIEW
(8:00 p.m. ET, TV: FSN NY 2 , TSN| Radio: Bloomberg 1130) After a dramatic end to their regular season, the Islanders drop the puck on the 2007 postseason tonight in Buffalo at the HSBC Arena against the top seeded Sabres.
Viktor Kozlov and Miroslav Satan each tallied their fifth shootout goals of the season, while Wade Dubielewicz (3-0) remained perfect in NHL shootouts to help clinch the final playoff berth with a 3-2 win Sunday against New Jersey.
Richard Park used his 82nd game of the season to notch his ninth and tenth goals of the season for the Islanders regulation goals. Park, along with Jason Blake and Mike Sillinger were the only Islanders to play all 82 games.
For the Islanders, Blake finished the season first on the team in goals (40) and points (69), while Tom Poti reached his career high and led the team with 38 assists. Five other Islanders finished the season with at least 20 goals: Ryan Smyth, Satan, Sillinger, Kozlov and Trent Hunter.
Following a season of frustration last year due to missing the playoffs, the Islanders return to the postseason for the first time since the 2004 Stanley Cup playoffs, where they were ousted in the first round in five games by the eventual Stanley Cup-champion Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Islanders have seven players from that series on their playoff roster, but only four are expected to skate in Game One tonight: Yashin, Blake, Hunter and Arron Asham.
Leading the way for the Islanders in playoff experience is Smyth, who has played in 68 postseason games and has gone 22-21-43. Chris Campoli, Bruno Gervais and Wade Dubielewicz are set to make their NHL playoff debuts.
The Islanders do not have an easy task in the first round, taking on the Presidents' Trophy-winning Sabres, who finished with a league best 113 points. In four meeting this year, the Islanders managed just win, along with three regulation losses.
In those contests, Asham was the Islanders' leading scorer, having tallied two goals and two assists. Randy Robitaille combined for three goals and one assist in five games, which included two games while playing with Philadelphia.
For the Sabres, Maxim Afinogenov, Chris Drury and Jason Pominville each tallied five points in the season series. Jochen Hecht was the leading goal scorer in the series for the Sabres with three.
The Sabres have received good news recently with the return of two of their top scorers - Afinogenov and Tim Connolly. Afinogenov will skate on a line with Thomas Vanek and Derek Roy, while Connolly, who has played in only two games this season, will be on the fourth line with Drew Stafford as well as Adam Mair or Daniel Paille.
This is the third postseason mathcup between these two teams, with all three series going to the Islanders. The last time they met was in the 1980 semifinals when the Islanders won in six games before capturing their first of four Stanley Cups the following series against the Philadelphia Flyers.
While no current Sabre has faced the Islanders in a playoff game, seven Islanders have played at least one contest against the Sabres in the postseason. Yashin tops the chart with 12 postseason contests against Buffalo, earning a goal and five assists. Richard Zednik has been the most effective, with two goals and two assists in only six games.
Including all of the players on each roster, the Sabres lead in the postseason games department by 528-507. First for Buffalo in total playoff experience, with 32 more games than the next Sabre, is Chris Drury at 98. He also leads the team in playoff goals (35), assists (33) and points (68).
Comparing the two teams during the 2006-07 regular season, the Islanders finished in the middle of the pack in goals for (14th) and goals against (12th), while Buffalo was first in the league in goals, and finished just behind the Islanders in goals against.
The Islanders are well aware of the Sabres' skill up front. Buffalo boasts four 30-goal scorers: Vanek (43), Chris Drury (37), Jason Pominville (34) and Daniel Briere (32) as well as six players with at least 60 points.
Special teams for the two teams were comparable, with the Islanders just above 18% on the power play and Buffalo a shade below. On the penalty kill both teams were between 81% and 82%.
In goal for the Sabres will be sophomore netminder Ryan Miller, who led this team to the Eastern Conference Finals last season before bowing out the eventual champions, the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Sabres' mobile defense is led by Brian Campbell, who compiled 48 points in his fourth full season.
Chris King and Steve Mears have the call on Bloomberg Radio 1130, while Howie Rose and Billy Jaffe can be seen tonight on FSN NY 2. For those up in Canada watching on TSN, you'll see the tandem of Gord Miller and Pierre McGuire.
Islanders - 92 points, 4th place, Atlantic Division
Buffalo - 113 points, 1st place, Northeast Division
Islanders - Jason Blake, 40 goals, 69 points; Tom Poti, 38 assists; Brendan Witt, 131 PIM
Buffalo - Thomas Vanek, 43 goals; Daniel Briere, 63 assists, 95 points; Adam Mair, 128 PIM.
Islanders - Power play: 18.1 percent. Penalty killing: 81.8 percent
Buffalo - Power play: 17.4 percent. Penalty killing: 81.3 percent.
Islanders - Wade Dubielewicz (4-1-0, 2.06 GAA, .934 SV%); Mike Dunham (4-10-3, 3.74, .889)
Buffalo - Ryan Miller (40-16-6, 2.73, .911); Ty Conklin (3-5-2, 3.34, .879)
2006-07 SEASON SERIES:
March 30, 2007 at the HSBC Arena: 6-4 Buffalo win
Buffalo - 28-10-3 at home
Islanders - 18-17-6 on the road
1 Mike Dunham
34 Wade Dubielewicz
3 Tom Poti
6 Sean Hill
8 Bruno Gervais
14 Chris Campoli
32 Brendan Witt
47 Marc-Andre Bergeron
7 Trent Hunter
10 Richard Park
11 Andy Hilbert
15 Jeff Tambellini
18 Mike Sillinger
20 Richard Zednik
25 Viktor Kozlov
27 Randy Robitaille
45 Arron Asham
55 Jason Blake
79 Alexei Yashin
81 Miroslav Satan
94 Ryan Smyth
30 Ryan Miller
35 Ty Conklin
5 Toni Lydman
6 Jaroslav Spacek
10 Henrik Tallinder
27 Teppo Numminen
38 Nathan Paetsch
45 Dmitri Kalinin
51 Brian Campbell
9 Derek Roy
12 Ales Kotalik
15 Dainius Zubrus
19 Tim Connolly
20 Daniel Paille
21 Drew Stafford
22 Adam Mair
23 Chris Drury
26 Thomas Vanek
29 Jason Pominville
48 Daniel Briere
55 Jochen Hecht
61 Maxim Afinogenov
76 Andrew Peters