Sports

Struggling Isles visit Buffalo

(SportsNetwork.com) - The struggling New York Islanders will try for their second win in six games when they visit the Buffalo Sabres for Sunday's encounter at First Niagara Center.

The Islanders are 1-4-0 over their last five tilts, with the lone victory coming in Thursday's 3-2 shootout win at Philadelphia.

The recent slide has allowed Pittsburgh to move ahead of New York for first place in the Metropolitan Division. The Penguins, who are idle on Sunday, hold a one-point lead over the Islanders.

New York fell 2-1 in regulation to Boston on Saturday. Loui Eriksson netted the winner in the latter stages of the third period and the Isles only scored once despite firing 40 shots at Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask.

John Tavares picked up the lone score for New York while backup netminder Chad Johnson made 34 saves in the loss.

"It was a tough game and it came down to the third period," Johnson said.

Jaroslav Halak is expected to start on Sunday against the Sabres. New York's No. 1 goaltender owns a career record of 5-2-0 versus Buffalo with a lifetime 2.69 goals against average.

The Sabres won the first of three meetings against the Islanders this season, posting a 3-2 shootout victory at First Niagara Center on Dec. 27. Buffalo is 6-2-1 over the last nine meetings with the Isles and the Sabres have won two of the last three encounters in Western New York.

After beating the Isles on Dec. 27, Buffalo would lose its next 14 games in regulation to set a dubious franchise record. However, the Sabres ended the epic slide with Tuesday's win in Montreal and then picked up their second victory in three tests on Saturday against Dallas.

The Sabres dropped the opener of a five-game homestand, losing 3-0 to the St. Louis Blues on Thursday, but Buffalo rebounded with a 3-2 win over the Stars. The close win ended a six-game home skid and was Buffalo's first triumph at First Niagara Center since beating the Isles in late December.

Buffalo also won its first regulation home game since a 4-3 victory over Calgary on Dec. 11. Ted Nolan's club is 11-14-2 overall as the host this season.

Zemgus Girgensons tallied a goal and an assist to help the Sabres clip Dallas. Tyler Myers and Tyler Ennis also scored, Chris Stewart tied a career high with three assists and Jhonas Enroth was impressive in net with 38 saves.

"Jhonas stood on his head for us," Girgensons said. "We've been working hard these past few days."

With Buffalo playing on consecutive days, the Sabres could use Michal Neuvirth in net on Sunday. Neuvirth, who was bothered by a lower-body injury recently, hasn't played since suffering a loss against Philadelphia on Jan. 17. He is 5-1-0 with a 1.71 GAA in seven career appearances against the Islanders.

The Sabres will continue their homestand Tuesday against Ottawa. The Islanders are set to begin a four-game homestand the same night versus Edmonton.