ISLANDERS VS. SABRES
Saturday, 10.31.2009 / 7:00 PMSABRES (8-1-1) at ISLANDERS (3-4-5)
Last 10 --
Buffalo 8-1-1; New York 3-4-3
Season series --
The teams are meeting for the second time this season. Buffalo took an early 3-0 lead on the way to a 6-3 victory at HSBC Arena on Oct. 16. The Sabres and Islanders split their four-game series last season.
Big story --
Can anyone cool off the Sabres? Buffalo blew a 2-1 lead by allowing a shorthanded goal in the final minute to Toronto at home Friday night, but Tim Connolly scored a power-play goal 1:04 into OT to give the Sabres a 3-2 win. It was Buffalo's fourth win in a row, and the Sabres have matched the second-best start since the franchise entered the NHL in 1970. The 1975-76 Sabres also started 8-1-1; the '06-07 version won its first 10 games.
Ryan Miller is making a good case to be the starter for Team USA at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Miller improved to 8-0-1 with a 33-save performance against the Leafs on Friday -- including 15 saves in the third period when Toronto outshot Buffalo 16-5.
"That's who he is. He's a battler and the backbone of our team," Buffalo captain Craig Rivet said. "We played against a feisty team that wanted a win, and he stood on his head a couple times to help us out. He was the main reason we got the win."
Life is starting to look a little brighter on Long Island after a couple of victories. The Islanders are actually 3-1-2 in their last six and coming off back-to-back victories -- 3-1 over the Rangers at home on Wednesday and 4-3 in overtime at Washington on Friday.
The game against the Caps was the seventh that has gone past regulation, but just the second time the Islanders went home with the extra point.
"We were right on the cusp of getting some wins," coach Scott Gordon said. "A lot of things have been coming together."
Who's hot --
Tim Connolly was the man for Buffalo against the Leafs, setting up Drew Stafford's goal before scoring on a second-period breakaway and an overtime power play. He is 3-6-9 in Buffalo's last five games. Miller has yet to lose in regulation.
Injury report --
Buffalo defenseman Toni Lydman has missed the Sabres' last three games with a groin problem. The Islanders are still without forward Trent Hunter
(chest), who could be back next week, and goaltender Rick DiPietro
, who's recuperating from hip and knee surgery and may be back around Thanksgiving.
Stat pack --
This is the 70th time the teams have met at the Nassau Coliseum, and they're dead-even through the first 69. Both teams have won 30 times (29 in regulation, the Islanders once in OT and Buffalo once in a shootout), and the other nine games ended in ties.
Puck drop --
Both teams played Friday and are playing for the third time in four nights. The Sabres are a better team, but the Islanders are starting to get their legs after a shaky start -- and they'll have Martin Biron, an ex-Sabre, in goal. There's nothing he'd like better than to beat his old team -- he's 6-2-1 lifetime against the Sabres but has never started against them as an Islander.
-- John Kreiser, NHL.com