If the Buffalo Sabres want to get into the playoff mix, they are going to have to beat teams like the New York Islanders. However, that is not something they have been able to do on a consistent basis as of late.
The Sabres hope to avoid a fourth straight loss to the Islanders this evening and jump past the Long Island-based club in the Eastern Conference standings.
Buffalo is currently sitting 13th overall in the East, 10 points behind eighth-place Toronto. The Sabres can make a move up the ladder this evening as they sit only one point behind the Islanders and Lightning, who are tied for 11th. Tampa Bay is hosting Florida this evening.
Buffalo had a two-game win streak snapped on Wednesday in frustrating fashion as it dropped a 1-0 shootout decision to the New York Rangers. Ryan Miller made 29 saves for his second shutout of the season and 24th of his career, but yielded two goals in the five-round shootout.
"It was a good game and we played some tight defense," said Miller. "But it's really hard to beat that guy (Lundqvist) over on the other side and he showed why tonight."
Buffalo now hits the road and has won its past two as the guest following a club-record 12 straight regulation losses as the visiting team. It is now 10-15-0 away from home this season.
Thomas Vanek, though, is still out with an upper-body ailment suffered no Tuesday in Montreal.
The Sabres have been bested in a pair of meetings already this year with the Islanders as part of their three-game series slide and have also lost six of seven and eight of the last 11 encounters. Buffalo has dropped five of six and seven of its past 10 trips to New York.
The Islanders will look to extend that trend tonight and get back to .500 on the season. They moved to 21-22-7 following last night's 2-1 overtime win in Ottawa.
"It's nice to see a guy like Mark Eaton score. He's done a lot of great things for us this year, a lot of the little things that don't get a lot of the press," said Islanders forward John Tavares. "It's great to see him score a nice one there and it's a big win for us."
Evgeni Nabokov stopped 23 shots for the Islanders, who have won their first two games following the All-Star break and will play four of their next five at home. They are 11-11-4 as the host this season.