The Buffalo Sabres played less-than-inspiring hockey in interim coach Ron Rolston's debut. The Sabres will look to put forth a better effort Saturday when they welcome the New York Islanders to the First Niagara Center. One day removed from firing long-time coach Lindy Ruff, Buffalo suffered its third straight loss and fifth in six outings with a 3-1 setback to Toronto on Thursday.
The Sabres can hang their hat on a 3-2 triumph over the Islanders on Feb. 9. Admittedly that contest was at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, where the home team has won only twice in eight contests. The road has been a different, story, however as New York benefited from defenseman Thomas Hickey's first NHL goal to seize a 4-3 overtime triumph over Montreal on Thursday.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, MSG Plus (New York), MSG Buffalo
ABOUT THE ISLANDERS (7-9-1): One-time franchise goaltender Rick DiPietro was placed on waivers Friday. DiPietro, who famously signed a 15-year, $67.5 million contract in 2006, dropped all three decisions this season and boasts a 4.09 goals against average. Once he clears waivers or is claimed, the former top overall pick is expected to trade places with Kevin Poulin in Bridgeport of the American Hockey League. Starting goaltender Evgeni Nabokov struggled in his last outing versus Buffalo, stopping 12 of 15 shots to drop to 4-4-1 in his career against the franchise.
ABOUT THE SABRES (6-11-1): A woeful power play has contributed to a lack of offense in western New York. Buffalo is 2-for-40 with the man advantage in February and mustered a total of 10 goals during its last six contests. While the results haven't been promising, the fans at First Niagara Center aren't shy about expressing their feelings. The Sabres, who are 3-5-1 at home, have heard an earful from their fan base for much of the season.
1. Buffalo's LW Thomas Vanek collected a goal and an assist in the teams' earlier meeting, but has tallied once in the last six contests. Vanek is tied with Pittsburgh's James Neal for the NHL lead in goals (12).
2. New York's John Tavares, who scored against the Sabres in the last contest and has a team-leading 11 goals, has 14 points (seven goals, seven assists) in 13 all-time meetings.
3. Buffalo G Ryan Miller, who stopped a season-high 41 shots against the Islanders, is 14-8-2 with a pair of shutouts against the franchise.
PREDICTION: Islanders 3, Sabres 1