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Islanders vs. Sabres Preview/Game Thread: Tavares out, Halak starts, etc.

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Day 1 of the Post-Tavares Apocalypse

NHL: New York Islanders at Buffalo Sabres
Can we just hold one another until this season expires?
Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

This afternoon the New York Islanders resume their now astronomically slim-odds playoff push Sunday afternoon against the Sabres in Buffalo, needing to basically win out and hope many teams falter, without captain and leading scorer John Tavares.

Adding him to a list of fellow missing regulars Casey Cizikas, Nikolay Kulemin and defenseman Travis Hamonic, and it’s starting to look like the late-season “ATO #55” lineups of 2009-12 vintage.

Today’s surprise entry to this mix is Connor Jones, a grinding pest and penalty killer called up from Bridgeport for his NHL debut. He’s one of the Jones twins who came out of Quinnipiac and were pro teammates this year with the Sound Tigers.

In terms of “what can Jones do for me?” look more toward the vacancies left by Cizikas and Kulemin rather than the gaping void left by #91. Jones will wear #48.

Lineup News

That leaves expected youth-friendly lines like this:

Lee-Beauvillier-Ho-Sang
Ladd-Quine-Chimera
Prince-Nelson-Bailey
Gionta-Jones-Clutterbuck

The prodigal Jaroslav Halak starts his second game in a row in goal. The defense remains the same as Friday’s 2-1 win over the Devils, with Scott Mayfield the lone healthy scratch.

Longtime Islander Kyle Okposo will miss this one with an illness, opening the way for the NHL debut of C.J. Smith, a college free agent signed out of UMass-Lowell last week.

Coverage

TV coverage of this dystopian future is on MSG+ (just where you’d imagine the apocalypse to be televised, with some former Ranger asked to comment on the NBA), and on radio at AM970 - The Answer, 88.7FM - WRHU, and 103.9FM - LI News.

Check Sabres coverage on SB Nation at Die By The Blade.

Leave your First Islanders Goal picks here by game time, which is 3 p.m. EDT.