Last night the Sabres squeaked out a 3-2 win in Buffalo over the Leafs (whom they routinely beat at home), and tonight they visit the Islanders as they begin a seven-game road string. Opportunity? One hopes.
That Leaf-Sabres game was entertaining enough and close throughout -- see a nice outline of scoring chances here -- but certainly if the Islanders bring a focused effort like they did against the Red Wings and Flyers they can reasonably expect better results here at home. (Aside: Luke Schenn was left puck-watching on the game-winner; see a quick missive on Schenn's development in the PPP recap here, followed by a plea for patience here.
Speaking of the start-and-stop progress that comes with bringing youngsters along at the NHL level, Luke Adam is headed to the young stars part of the All-Star weekend, but it appears there are some growing pains.
The Sabres are still marked by injuries, most notably Christian Ehrhoff and Tyler Ennis. Their owner Terry Pegula discusses the timeless "injuries / excuse" topic here.
Also via Die By The Blade, here's look at Lindy Ruff's Sabres teams over the years and how they rank in offensive and defensive categories. So rare that you can get a look at a coach's history across eras, talent (Hasek?) and resources.
The Islanders will field the same lineup they used throughout the week -- including starting Evgeni Nabokov again -- his 11th straight in Al Montoya's absence -- so Kevin Poulin has rested all week after his AHL Player of the Week performance. Starting to look like this recall was a reward for good play and NHL cooking, and not a chance to get Poulin NHL action. Jack Capuano looks like he likes the groove Nabby is in (puckhandling folly notwithstanding). Not that Poulin needed to face the two big teams earlier this week, but most observers expected Poulin would get at least this one against the less-feared Sabres.
Tthe Islanders play the Predators Monday afternoon, so ... maybe that's when Poulin will get his second appearance of the NHL season?
On that note, Bridgeport played for the first time since Poulin's recall last night and won, with David Ullstrom returning to score a goal in his eighth consecutive (AHL) road game. Highlights here. (Mark will get to the full prospect report Sunday, but sounds like Ryan Strome had a facial injury last night.)
Obviously Rick DiPietro hasn't been a lineup candidate since he left the game in Dallas Dec. 3. Yesterday's thread discussing his sports hernia surgery as reported by Newsday is here. So for discussing DiPietro, go ahead to that thread and try (somewhat) to leave this thread for tonight's game, which doesn't involve RDP (nor will any game preview for the rest of the season, apparently).
But note the added wrinkle in the Islanders' statement today: "Knee swelling" again. Given his chronic knee issues this is not surprising, but it is noteworthy that for the second time in 11 months the Islanders have announced a major DiPietro injury (facial fractures last February, sports hernia this month) while adding "knee swelling." Despite all his rehab efforts, if the knee has a chronic issue without him even having played games for over a month, well that's not a good sign for his hopes to resume a normal NHL career.
Patrick Flatley Night
Tonight as part of their 40th Anniversary "Decades Nights" series the Islanders will honor former captain Patrick Flatley. A Canadian who played at Wisconsin, Flatley and Pat LaFontaine were part of that next wave of young talent who would hopefully sustain the dynasty. Alas, each arrived just as the dynasty ended and though they more than did their part, they simply weren't surrounded by the same level of talent. Apparently Bossy and Gillies don't grow on trees, and Potvins only come around once a century.
Here's video of Flatley on the captaincy, his best memories as an Islander:
Here's Stan Fischler comparing Flatley to the Bobby Nystrom mold:
Finally, if you participate in our First Islanders Goal pool each game (or any game you're able), leave your picks for tonight in this thread.