Fresh off a tough Saturday night in Boston, the New York Islanders head into Buffalo for an early Sunday evening game a little worse for wear. Michael Grabner has been placed on Injured Reserve again after seeing just 9:55 of ice time in last night's loss to the Bruins, Cal Clutterbuck (just 6:54) is in doubt after taking an "upper body" injury, and Calvin de Haan also left that game late after taking a skate to the head.
The Isles, who scratched Lubomir Visnovsky last night and have Matt Donovan still in storage, have coverage on the blueline. But for the forward corps, Colin McDonald and Harry Zolnierczyk have been recalled from AHL Bridgeport on emergency conditions. After several such recalls recently, this time McDonald may actually get in a game.
The Sabres are bad, historically so, but they have 16 wins in 53 games -- including a comeback shootout win when the Isles last visited -- so we all know the less likely things happen all the time in the NHL. Last night the Sabres victimized the Stars in Lindy Ruff's return to Buffalo after jumping to a 3-0 lead against Anders Lindback, whose .875 save percentage in 10 games this season puts him in "Evgeni Nabokov and Chad Johnson" territory.
That was their first home win in 2015. Their previous one? The embarrassing Isles blown 3-0 lead that ended in a Sabres shootout win.
Among the highlights for Buffalo last night was three assists from Chris Stewart, the enigmatic should-be power forward whose career has been marked by surges of enticing skill and physicality interrupted by periods where teams wonder why he won't do that more often. Of his recent good play, Stewart credits a tough talk from Ted Nolan back in December.
The warning there, for teams thinking of acquiring Stewart before the trade deadline:
"There's not too many people in my life right now that really hold me accountable."
Old friend Matt Moulson featured in a pretty passing combo on one those goals last night. He always seemed like a guy who could take the best approach to soldiering through a rebuild, so hopefully he's having as much fun as is possible given the current situation in Buffalo.
With both team finishing a back-to-back, there was no morning skate to preview lineup details. Expect news around 3 p.m., but the Isles have the aforementioned injury concerns and recalls. [Update: Indeed, McDonald and Zolnierczyk are in for Grabner and Clutterbuck, Visnovsky for de Haan.]
With Chad Johnson and Jhonas Enroth playing last night, the expectation is that Jaroslav Halak and Michael Neuvirth will be in the nets.
Leave your First Islanders Goal picks here. Don't pick Grabner :(