NHL Preview from The Sports Network|
Saturday, February 9th
(All times Eastern)
Buffalo Sabres (5-5-0) at New York Islanders (4-5-1), 7 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Buffalo Sabres will try to record consecutive victories
for only the second time this season when they visit the sliding New York
Islanders for Saturday's meeting at Nassau Coliseum.
The Sabres began the campaign with back-to-back wins over Philadelphia and
Toronto, but then dropped seven of their next eight games. Buffalo was able to
halt a three-game slide on Thursday, pulling off a comeback win over the
visiting Montreal Canadiens.
Thomas Vanek scored a pair of third-period goals, including one with 1.9
seconds left, and Jason Pominville notched the deciding goal in the shootout
to lift the Sabres to a 5-4 win over the Habs.
Vanek also scored in the first round of the shootout for the Sabres. Tyler
Ennis added a goal and two assists, while Steve Ott had a goal and an assist.
Ryan Miller made 28 saves for the win.
Trailing by two, 4-2, Vanek put his team on his back with a pair of late
strikes. The first came on the power play after Montreal's Ryan White was
given a four-minute roughing penalty. Vanek gathered a rebound in front and
beat Peter Budaj with a backhander at 7:57.
Vanek's game-tying goal came in the dying seconds of regulation. A mad
scramble for the puck took place in front of Budaj, and Vanek managed to poke
the disc across the goal line past a mass of bodies. The goal was upheld
following a review with 1.9 seconds to go.
"That is a huge goal by Vanek," Ennis said. "He was rewarded, he had a lot of
chances tonight and he's staying hot."
Vanek has exploded out of the gate this season, posting 10 goals and 21 points
in his first 10 games. Both his goal and point totals are currently tops in
The Islanders, meanwhile, are anything but hot right now, having lost three
straight regulation decisions after a strong 4-2-1 start to the season. New
York has scored a total of three goals during its three-game slide and is
coming off Thursday's 4-1 setback to the rival New York Rangers.
John Tavares netted the lone goal on Thursday for the Islanders, while Evgeni
Nabokov stopped 21-of-24 attempts in the setback.
"It seems like sometimes we are satisfied to be in close games, but there's
enough talent in here to work hard and win games," said Nabokov. "We need to
start better, and that starts with me and it goes along the line with
everybody. That's the bottom line."
The Isles made headlines prior to Thursday's game by acquiring the rights to
idle goaltender Tim Thomas in a trade with the Boston Bruins. New York sent a
conditional future second-round choice for the 38-year-old former Vezina
Trophy winner, who is currently sitting out the season in order to spend time
with his family in Colorado.
The Bruins will receive the pick only if Thomas reports to his new team, but
that's not expected to happen. In reality, it appears the Islanders made this
trade solely for financial reasons. According to several sources, New York
needed to reach the salary-cap floor of $53 million, and Thomas' "35-plus"
contract, which includes a cap hit of $5 million pro-rated for this truncated
season, will help satisfy that requirement regardless of whether or not Thomas
While Thomas isn't expected to suit up for the Isles anytime soon, the club is
expecting to finally have defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky in the lineup on
Visnovsky, acquired by the Isles in a trade with the Anaheim Ducks in June,
had been playing in the Kontinental Hockey League during the NHL lockout and
intended to remain with his Slovan Bratislava team for the remainder of the
2012-13 season. The NHL and KHL have an agreement in place, however, that
states that any player under contract in North America had to return once the
work stoppage had ended.
The Islanders immediately suspended Visnovsky, who finally arrived in the
United States on Wednesday night and passed a team physical on Thursday. He
was reinstated to the active roster and expects to play on Saturday.
"It's up to the coach, but I'm ready to play," Visnovsky said on Friday. "If
he gives me the chance, I'll be very happy. The big challenge for me is to
help this team and show everybody that this is a playoff team. I'm playing for
the playoffs. We have a big game tomorrow and I have a lot to prove."
The Slovakia native had 18 goals and a career-best 68 points with the Ducks in
2010-11 and has accumulated 117 goals and 450 points over 771 career NHL
The Islanders have won six of the last nine meetings against Buffalo overall
and five of the previous seven encounters at Nassau Coliseum.
02/09 10:57:30 ET