The New York Islanders will attempt Saturday to achieve something the franchise hasn’t done in almost 30 years. The Buffalo Sabres would be happy just to do something they did last week.
The Islanders will go for their ninth straight win when they visit the Sabres in the second game of a back-to-back set for both teams.
The Islanders extended their winning streak Friday by beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2 in Uniondale, N.Y. The Sabres took a second consecutive loss for the first time this season, falling 6-1 to the host Washington Capitals.
The eight-game winning streak is the longest by an NHL team this season and the longest for the Islanders since a nine-game run from Dec. 31, 1989, through Jan. 19, 1990.
The surge has validated the breakout year the Islanders enjoyed under first-year head coach Barry Trotz last season, when they allowed the fewest goals in the NHL and reached the second round of the playoffs for just the second time in 25 years. New York has given up two goals or fewer in seven of the eight wins in the streak, and eight of their nine wins overall.
“I think we’ve all recognized what our identity is and who we are,” said Islanders captain Anders Lee, who earned first star honors Friday with one goal and two assists. “Guys are playing their roles perfectly.
“Our (penalty) killers are killing. We’re not trying to do too much. I think we’re playing a pretty simple game and not taking too many risks, and if we do, we’ve had great goaltending, that’s kind of backed us up.”
The Sabres, who haven’t reached the playoffs since 2011, looked for most of October as if they might be following the blueprint established last season by the Islanders.
Under first-year head coach Ralph Krueger, the Sabres raced out to an 8-1-1 start. But Buffalo has lost three of its last four games (1-2-1) and gave up four first-period goals in a span of fewer than five minutes Friday.
“I just think the thing you take from this is we’ve got a long way to go,” Sabres right winger Kyle Okposo told reporters Friday night. “I just think our game’s been just slipping a little bit. We’ve been playing pretty good hockey most of the time, maybe getting away with 10 minutes here and there. Tonight, we didn’t.”
Linus Ullmark (Sabres) and Thomas Greiss (Islanders) started Friday in the front end of the back-to-back sets, so Carter Hutton and Semyon Varlamov, respectively, are likely to appear in net Saturday night.
Hutton, who has been the Sabres’ No. 1 goalie this year, last played Monday, when he took the loss after recording 42 saves in Buffalo’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Arizona Coyotes.
Varlamov and Greiss have been alternating starts ever since Varlamov drew the start in the season opener. Varlamov earned the win in his most recent appearance Sunday, when he stopped 28 shots as the Islanders beat the Philadelphia Flyers 5-3.
Hutton is 1-2-0 in four career games against the Islanders. Varlamov is 7-2-1 in 10 games against the Sabres.
–Field Level Media