NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Saturday, March 15th (All times Eastern)
Buffalo Sabres (19-39-8) at New York Islanders (25-34-9), 7 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Buffalo Sabres hope to avoid a fifth straight setback on Saturday night as they visit the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum.
The Sabres have been outscored 12-5 over their current four-game slide and netminder Michal Neuvirth faced plenty of pucks in Thursday's 4-2 setback to the Carolina Hurricanes.
Neuvirth, in his second start since being acquired from the Washington Capitals, faced 54 shots in attempting to keep his club in the game. His 51 saves marked the first time a Sabres netminder posted at least 50 stops in a game since Dominik Hasek had 55 on March 1, 1996.
Neuvirth and Jhonas Enroth are both battling to become the No. 1 goaltender in Buffalo. The Sabres also are set to host the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday, so both should see action over the next two days.
"If there's one positive thing about (Thursday's game), Michal, I thought he was good again. The one thing our goalies are going to end up doing in the remaining ... games we have, they're going to get a lot of good looks and fight for that position," Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said.
Neuvirth is 5-1-0 with a 1.71 goals against average in his career versus the Islanders, while Enroth has lost both of his previous games against them while posting a 2.53 GAA.
Despite all the shots allowed, the Sabres were in the game versus the Hurricanes until late. Tyler Ennis scored on a first-period penalty shot, the first successful conversion for a Sabres skater since April 10, 2010, and Drew Stafford scored a goal in his third straight game.
Stafford's tally gave the Sabres a 2-1 lead with 11:17 to play.
"It's a tough one because I thought we started showing some life in the second period and third but we couldn't capitalize on our chances," said Stafford following his club's fifth road loss in six games.
Buffalo defenseman Alexander Sulzer returned from a two-game absence caused by a lower-body injury, but exited early with an upper-body ailment following a hit along the boards. Nolan said the blueliner is likely to miss about a week of action.
The Sabres have won five of their last six meetings with the Islanders, including the first of three scheduled encounters this season. That was a 4-3 shootout win on Oct. 15 in New York, Buffalo's third straight victory on Long Island.
The Islanders began a four-game homestand on Friday night with their seventh loss in 10 games overall, falling 4-3 to the San Jose Sharks.
Evgeni Nabokov faced his old team for the first time, but came up short despite a 22-save effort.
"They are not an easy team to play against," Nabokov said. "They are big, they are experienced, but I thought we were right there with them."
Anders Lee, Brock Nelson and Frans Nielsen had goals for the Islanders. Kyle Okposo had two assists and Lee also notched a helper to give the 23-year-old six goals and nine points in eight games this season.
Lee has 11 points in 10 career NHL games and skated on the top line Friday with Okposo and Nielsen because Michael Grabner is out with a concussion.
"Lee is big and strong and wins a lot of wall battles," Nielsen said. "He's really fun to play with because every time you lose the puck he's right there and gets it right back. He just competes so hard."
New York could start Anders Nilsson tonight to wrap up a set of games on back- to-back days. He has never before faced the Sabres.
03/15 10:31:53 ET