The New York Islanders are back stateside and will conclude the New Year in some place other than Winnipeg for the first time since 2015. They’ll finish up about as far away as they could possibly be while still remaining in their home state as they take on the Buffalo Sabres in a matchup that looks like an early contest for a wild card spot. Both the Islanders and the Sabres have been incredibly surprising and have the Empire State thinking playoff hockey once again.
The Islanders are coming off of an absolutely tremendous victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs that saw the kid that won the Calder get a hat trick and the guy that left Buffalo get a shutout as they won by a score of four to nothing. That put the Islanders back into a playoff spot for all of an hour before the Pittsburgh Penguins handled the St. Louis Blues and got the third spot back. They can conclude the calendar year in a playoff spot with a victory as they would tie the Boston Bruins in points while having games in hand. They could move into third in the Metropolitan with a victory and a Penguins loss in regulation or would move into the top wild card spot with a victory and a Montreal Canadiens loss of any fashion or a loss in overtime or a shootout and a Canadiens loss in regulation.
It doesn’t look like there will be any changes to the lineup, though keep a close eye on Cal Clutterbuck’s status. If he isn’t able to go, he could be spelled by Ross Johnston. Robin Lehner will get the start against his old team.
Puck drop is at 6:00 P.M. E.S.T.