National Hockey League
Sabres-Islanders Preview
National Hockey League

Sabres-Islanders Preview

Updated Mar. 4, 2020 11:05 p.m. ET

The top priority for playoff-bound teams is finishing with the best seed and getting healthy for the postseason. For the New York Islanders, the latter just doesn't seem possible.

As the injuries continue to mount, the Islanders continue their push for third place in the Metropolitan Division on Saturday night against the Buffalo Sabres.

Since a 1-4-1 stretch put a playoff spot in jeopardy, the Islanders have responded with six wins in seven games to tie the Rangers for third in the division.

They completed their first regular-season sweep of their intracity rivals with a 4-1 victory at Madison Square Garden on Thursday. John Tavares continued his torrid stretch with a goal and an assist, while Thomas Greiss stopped 36 shots for the Islanders, who have scored 13 times during a three-game win streak.


''Obviously there was significance in the positioning today, but I think we know we didn't play our best," said Tavares, who has five goals and 11 points in his last six games. "Our goaltender really won us that game today.''

While the Islanders (45-26-9) have two games remaining to one for the Rangers, they trail in the tiebreaker and could need to finish ahead of them to clinch third. That spot, however, doesn't seem so desirable with a matchup against the red-hot Penguins - winners of 14 of 15 - looming. Finishing with the first wild card would send them into the first round against Florida.

There was one huge piece of bad news to come out of Thursday's win, as forward Anders Lee became the latest addition to the Islanders' lengthy injury list. Lee, tied for fifth on the team with 15 goals, suffered a broken left fibula and is out indefinitely.

Lee joins No. 1 goaltender Jaroslav Halak (groin), defensemen Travis Hamonic (knee) and Brian Strait (upper body), center Mikhail Grabovski (concussion) and forwards Matt Martin (upper body) and Cal Clutterbuck (lower body) as injured Islanders.

There is hope Hamonic, who hasn't played this month, could return for the playoffs, while Martin, Clutterbuck and Strait may also be back.

Greiss has seen the bulk of the time in net with Halak sidelined, and has been very sharp lately. He's won four consecutive starts with a 1.71 goals-against average, but could get a rest in this one with New York facing Philadelphia on Sunday.

Chris Gibson would then make his second career start after he made 29 saves Tuesday in a 4-3 overtime victory at Washington in his first.

The Islanders' next home win would be No. 26 this season, their most since a 26-11-3 mark in 1984-85.

Although the Sabres (34-36-11) will finish out of the playoffs for a fifth straight year, they have made considerable progress from last season's league-low 54 points. Buffalo has already improved by 25 points and is headed for its best finish since 2011-12.

The Sabres had a season high-tying three-game win streak snapped in their home finale Friday, falling 4-1 to Columbus.

''Not the way wanted to finish,'' captain Brian Gionta said. ''I think at times our starts, we're asleep at times.''

Chad Johnson is likely to be in net against his former team. He's 10-2-1 with a 2.27 GAA in his past 13 starts.

The Islanders are 6-1-3 in the last 10 meetings with the Sabres, absorbing that lone regulation loss, 2-1, at Barclays Center on Nov. 1.


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