The Islanders have not shown up to play defense in a while, allowing over 40+ shots on a regular basis. Although the Islanders have not made it easy on us fans, they still find themselves only one point out of a playoff spot, and just five points out of second place in the division. The Islanders inconsistencies have continued recently, so it is hard to tell whether or not they will sneak into the playoffs. The Isles have gone 4-4-2 in their last 10, which is mediocre at best. A huge opportunity awaits tonight as the Isles head to Buffalo to take on Sabres, who currently sit in last place in the entire Eastern Conference.
A Look at the Sabres:
There is nothing to say about Buffalo, besides for the fact that they have already shifted their focus to the NHL Draft Lottery and the future of the organization. They have had a similar last ten games to the Isles, going 4-5-1. The Sabres, led by Jack Eichel, have not had the season they were expecting, and find themselves in the bottom half of the league for yet another season. A familiar face will be suiting up for Buffalo tonight, former Islander Kyle Okposo who signed with the Sabres at the end of the 2015-16 season.
A Look at the Islanders:
Simply put, the Isles need to beat the Sabres. A point is not enough. The Sabres are the worst team in the Eastern Conference, and when you are in the middle of the playoff race in February, it’s games like these that you need to capitalize on. This will be the first half of a back to back, as they come home to face the Red Wings on Friday night. These are two games that they need to and should win. 3 of 4 points is almost a must. Jaroslav Halak has been the storyline of the past few games. While getting bombarded with shots, he has kept the Isles in every single game, and given them a chance to win. Expect Jaro to be between the pipes once again tonight, but if Doug wants to give him an extra day of rest, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Greiss get the first of two in a row. With the injury to Scott Mayfield, we will see Dennis Seidenberg return to the lineup. Johnny Boychuk has continued to skate, but is still not ready to return to the lineup.
Player to Watch: Brock Nelson
While many Islanders fans love to hate on Brock Nelson, including myself, it is nice to see when he can produce for the Isles offensively. He has had a goal and an assist in his last two games, which is certainly out of the ordinary with him. When given the chance to play with better players, Brock Nelson has been able to put up better numbers. At the beginning of the season, we saw incredible chemistry between Joshua Ho-Sang and Nelson, but due to “accountability,” Josh is playing in the AHL. Last game, Brock was on the ice for a shift with Mathew Barzal, and there was an immediate difference. He was skating with an edge and creating opportunities. When you are playing with Alan Quine on a nightly basis, it is hard to get the support you need from your line mates to boost your offensive production. Due to the fact that Nelson is an extremely streaky player, I would expect him to play another solid game tonight.
While it would be a very Islanders thing to do to lose this game, I just don’t see it happening. The Isles have defeated Buffalo in the first two meetings of the season, and I expect them to do the same tonight. The Isles will finally allow under 40 shots, but that number will not go below 30. Look for the Isles to win this one by a final score of 4-1.
Islanders Goals: Anders Lee, Anthony Beauvillier, John Tavares, Josh Bailey
Sabres Goal: Rasmus Ristolainen