Sabres-Islanders Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated February 08, 2013
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The Buffalo Sabres picked up a much-needed two points their last time out thanks to another big game from Thomas Vanek. The New York Islanders, meanwhile, are counting on a couple of fresh faces to help get them back on track. The Sabres try to build on their latest result Saturday night when they visit the slumping Islanders, who hope both Lubomir Visnovsky and Josh Bailey can make their season debuts. Buffalo (4-6-1) entered Thursday mired in a 1-6-1 skid before escaping with a 5-4 shootout win over Montreal. Vanek continued his impressive play with a pair of third-period goals - the second coming with two seconds left in regulation. He leads the NHL with 10 goals and 21 points. "It's great," said Vanek, who also scored in the shootout. "It means we get to not go home all frustrated tonight. Enjoy the win. Probably going to sleep better. Wake up tomorrow and go for the next one." Sitting at the bottom of the Northeast Division, Buffalo still has plenty of room for improvement. The Sabres have allowed a league worst-tying 41 goals, giving up at least four in six straight contests. "We've been finding ways to lose, and we found a way to win," coach Lindy Ruff said. "As much as we've tried to stay positive and stay away from the mistakes and try to ride through this tough stretch, it really is about winning the next game already. About putting this one behind us and focusing on getting better and getting on a run because we've got some ground to make up." So does New York (4-5-1), which has been outscored 11-3 during a three-game skid. The Islanders' woes continued Thursday in a 4-1 road loss to the New York Rangers. "We have to make the opposition's defense work harder," said John Tavares, who provided all the offense with his fifth goal and team-leading 12th point. "We just weren't good enough. That is unacceptable. Our effort and consistency has to be there for the full 60 minutes." The Islanders, though, have reason for optimism with Visnovsky likely to debut Saturday. The veteran defenseman, who was acquired from Anaheim during the offseason, stayed in his native Slovakia to tend to a family matter following the lockout. "The big challenge for me is to help this team and show everybody that this is a playoff team," Visnovsky, who's notched at least 40 points in five of the last seven seasons, told the team's official website. "I'm playing for the playoffs. We have a big game (Saturday) and I have a lot to prove." Bailey suffered a knee injury while playing overseas during the lockout but also has a chance to debut versus Buffalo. "Both those guys I think are coming in at the right time because we need a little boost here," Tavares said. "We're getting a couple of guys that we're really going to rely on in all areas of our game. ... Hopefully it can lead to some good results starting (Saturday). Visnovsky should help a power play that is 0 for 19 in the last three games after opening the season 9 for 24. Buffalo's Ryan Miller has yet to find his form, going 2-4-1 with a 3.69 goals-against average over his last seven starts. The former Vezina Trophy winner is 13-8-2 lifetime against the Islanders despite a 3.10 GAA - tied for his second-highest mark against any Eastern Conference team. The Islanders are 5-1-1 in their last seven homes games against the Sabres, but lost the most recent matchup there 4-3 in a shootout on Feb. 4, 2012.
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