Ryan Miller wants the Buffalo Sabres to head into the All-Star
break with a five-game winning streak, and a fortuitous schedule is
affording them that opportunity.
They still, however, haven’t won three in a row all season.
Miller and the Sabres look for their longest winning streak of
2010-11 when they face the New York Islanders for the second time
in a week as the teams open a home-and-home set at HSBC Arena on
Buffalo (21-20-5) is still trying to recover from a sluggish
start to the season, which included losing 11 of its first 14
games. A 7-2-1 stretch has the Sabres headed in the right
direction, but they’re still seven points out of a playoff
They continued their strong run Thursday, winning 4-2 at
Northeast Division-leading Boston as Miller made 18 of his 38 saves
in the third period. That came two nights after last season’s
Vezina Trophy winner stopped 29 shots in a 2-1 overtime victory
Miller’s confidence is building and he feels Buffalo can
capitalize on the next three games before taking a break for the
All-Star game on Jan. 30. After hosting New York (14-24-7), the
Sabres will visit Long Island on Sunday before facing last-place
Ottawa on Tuesday. Completing that stretch unbeaten would give
Buffalo its longest winning streak since a six-game run Dec. 27,
2009-Jan. 8, 2010.
“Up until the All-Star break we’ve got to run the table to be
around where we want to be,” Miller said. “That first half of the
season, we had some efforts that I thought were pretty good but we
weren’t getting the rewards. That’s a frustrating feeling. So it’s
been good to get that positive feeling.”
Miller has started 37 of 46 games and should add to that Friday.
He wasn’t very sharp against the Islanders on Saturday, making 32
saves in a 5-3 road loss. However, he’s won eight of nine against
them at home, including four in a row behind a 2.21 goals-against
average with one shutout.
Thomas Vanek has five goals and nine assists in the last nine
games, getting two points in each of the last four. The left wing’s
18 goals and 39 points lead the team, and he’s accumulated four
goals and six assists in nine home meetings with New York.
“We need him to produce. There’s no getting around it,” Miller
said. “It’s good to see him getting pucks to the net.”
The Sabres have won eight of the last 10 meetings with the
Islanders at HSBC Arena.
John Tavares is looking for another big performance against
Buffalo after recording a hat trick Saturday, capping an eight-game
stretch where he totaled eight goals and four assists. The
Islanders have lost twice since, and the 20-year-old center doesn’t
have a point while coming up empty on five shots in a 2-1 loss to
Washington on Thursday.
Tavares has five goals and one assist in five meetings with the
Sabres, while Kyle Okposo has five assists in his last six.
Okposo returned from right shoulder surgery Thursday, and didn’t
get a point in his season debut. He was second on the team with a
career-high 52 points in 2009-10.
The Islanders have allowed opponents to score first in eight