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Game Preview: Islanders vs. Sabres

The New York Islanders look to defeat the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday afternoon when they faceoff against the club for the third time in nine days

Sunday, 01.23.2011 / 12:00 AM / News
By Dyan LeBourdais
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Game Preview: Islanders vs. Sabres
The New York Islanders have faced the Buffalo Sabres twice in the last week outscoring them 10-5, but that’s not the end of this matchup between conference rivals. The Islanders will take on the Sabres for a third time on Sunday afternoon.

“It should be a good challenge,” Islanders center John Tavares said Saturday afternoon. “Obviously they’re probably going to want to come out much harder and have a better result against us. We’ve had some success, but they may change things up tomorrow and we have to be ready for that and ready to work.”

Scheduling the three games within nine days is really peculiar, but the Islanders have capitalized and hope to bring home their third Sunday afternoon. Without a doubt, Buffalo will bring their toughest effort and will be looking for a win, no matter how they have to do it.

ohn Tavares #91 skates away from the goalmouth after scoring the natural hattrick in the second period against the Buffalo Sabres at the Nassau Coliseum on January 15, 2011 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
“It started getting a little bit nasty (Friday) night,” Tavares said. “So I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a chippy one tomorrow. They’re going to want to come back hard and be able to get one back from us, so we have to make sure we’re ready to play.”

Depending on how rough the play becomes, there could be a handful of penalties delivered to both teams. Therefore, it’s a good thing the Islanders penalty kill was an important part of the team’s success. The Islanders took three penalties in the first period when facing the Sabres at HSBC Arena and didn’t allow one shorthanded goal.

“Our penalty kill has been great,” Tavares said. “It’s been sharper. We’ve been taking lanes away and getting our sticks in the way, blocking shots, getting it down and that’s been a big part of our success lately.”

Scoring the first goal in Friday night’s contest was extremely important. Rookie forward Michael Grabner’s goal put the Islanders on the scoreboard before their opponent for the first time in their last nine games.

“We have to start doing that more often,” Tavares said. “We haven’t been very good on our starts in the last few weeks and that’s an important part for a young team, to get that confidence early. We need to get a couple goals, get our feet going and not have to play from behind all the time against some really good teams, some good goaltenders and some really good players. We have to do that tomorrow once again.”

That first goal definitely gave the Islanders that confidence they needed to maintain their momentum. While the success was a full team effort, the production has largely been in part to outstanding performances from Tavares and Grabner. Friday night, Grabner had a two-goal game.

“Graby’s (Grabner's) first one was a big one,” Tavares said. “It was a nice fortunate bounce. He’s been playing great. I mean it seems that he gets three or four breakaways a game. He gets a lot of chances and it’s nice to see him get rewarded. He’s a great guy in the locker room as well. And then he tried to set up about three guys on the empty netter and he finally decided to just take it himself, so it’s good to see him rolling and hopefully he’ll keep it going for us.”

Tavares also had a two point night on the 21st. He won the faceoff to set up Matt Moulson and also passed to PA Parenteau in the slot. But in the first matchup between the clubs this season (Jan. 15), Tavares’ scored his second hat trick of the season, lifting the Islanders 3-1 over the Sabres. A third period goal from Grabner solidified a 5-3 win.

Rick DiPietro #39 of the New York Islanders makes the stop on Thomas Vanek #26 of the Buffalo Sabres at the Nassau Coliseum on January 15, 2011 in Uniondale, New York. The Islanders defeated the Sabres 5-3. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
While the Islanders offense has been producing points, the performance from the Islanders goaltenders was also strong. Rick DiPietro made 40 saves for just the ninth time in his NHL career when he went up against Ryan Miller on the 15th. And the 36-save joint effort from rookie goaltenders Nathan Lawson and Kevin Poulin forced Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff to pull Miller in favor of Patrick Lalime, after he let up two goals in the first 10:30 of play.

“Lawson did a good job of battling through after he got hurt, with six minutes or so left in the period, he got through it and kept the game where it was,” DiPietro said about the performance, while he was home battling the flu. “Then Pouls came in and shut the door for us.”

With DiPietro feeling better, he’ll most likely get the start on Sunday. And even though Miller let up seven goals between the two contests, Tavares said he wouldn’t be surprised if the veteran goaltender was Buffalo’s starter.

“We’ve been able to score against him, but he’s a great goaltender, a great competitor, and I’m sure he’ll probably be back in there tomorrow,” Tavares said. “I’m sure if he is, he’s going to battle hard and want to have a good game to bounce back. He’s one of the best in the world so we have to make sure that we’re doing the right things. We’re driving the net, taking a lot of shots and we just have to keep rolling.”




1 MTL 62 41 16 5 171 135 87
2 NYI 64 41 21 2 205 179 84
3 NYR 61 38 17 6 192 152 82
4 TBL 63 38 19 6 207 167 82
5 DET 61 35 15 11 180 159 81
6 PIT 61 35 17 9 176 152 79
7 WSH 63 33 20 10 184 159 76
8 BOS 62 31 22 9 165 161 71
9 FLA 62 27 22 13 150 175 67
10 PHI 63 27 25 11 168 183 65
11 OTT 60 27 23 10 171 163 64
12 NJD 63 26 27 10 141 164 62
13 CBJ 61 26 31 4 157 191 56
14 CAR 61 24 30 7 142 162 55
15 TOR 62 25 32 5 170 189 55
16 BUF 63 19 39 5 123 212 43


J. Tavares 64 30 35 4 65
K. Okposo 46 14 30 -2 44
R. Strome 64 14 27 22 41
B. Nelson 64 17 19 7 36
F. Nielsen 64 11 25 12 36
A. Lee 58 20 13 13 33
J. Bailey 52 12 19 10 31
J. Boychuk 54 7 23 16 30
N. Leddy 64 8 18 15 26
T. Hamonic 54 4 21 15 25
J. Halak 33 13 0 .911 2.46
C. Johnson 8 8 1 .889 3.08 is the official Web site of the New York Islanders Hockey Club, L.P. and are trademarks of New York Islanders Hockey Club, L.P.  NHL, the NHL Shield, the word mark and image of the Stanley Cup and NHL Conference logos are registered trademarks of the National Hockey League. All NHL logos and marks and NHL team logos and marks as well as all other proprietary materials depicted herein are the property of the NHL and the respective NHL teams and may not be reproduced without the prior written consent of NHL Enterprises, L.P. Copyright © 1999-2015 New York Islanders Hockey Club, L.P. and the National Hockey League. All Rights Reserved.

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