The Islanders hope a visit from the woeful Sabres on Saturday night can help them turn things around on Long Island.
New York (25-34-9) suffered its ninth home loss in 10 games with Friday's 4-3 defeat to San Jose. The Islanders' 9-17-8 home record is the worst in the NHL and their .354 home winning percentage is the fifth worst in franchise history. The 29 points at home are their fewest since finishing 12-27-1 with one tie for 26 points in 2000-01.
The Islanders have been plagued by awful goaltending during their 1-8-1 home stretch, with Evgeni Nabokov, Anders Nilsson and Kevin Poulin posting a combined 4.50 goals-against average and .849 save percentage.
Nabokov stopped 22 of 26 shots on Friday in his first start against the club he spent his first 10 seasons with. New York cut San Jose's lead to one on Frans Nielsen's 21st goal with 22 seconds remaining, but with John Tavares still sidelined and Michael Grabner out after suffering a concussion in Monday's win at Vancouver, the Islanders couldn't pull even.
"That's a top-notch team we played, so any little breakdown and it's in the back of your net," coach Jack Capuano said. "I thought we had a great effort. We worked hard as a group and we were getting chances."
With New York opening a four-game homestand Saturday and playoff contenders Minnesota and Columbus visiting next week, this figures to be the Islanders' best shot at their first home regulation victory since Jan. 6.
However, they lost to Buffalo 4-3 at home in a shootout on Oct. 15 despite outshooting the Sabres 44-34. It marked New York's fifth loss in six meetings, with three of those defeats coming in shootouts. The Islanders also outshot Buffalo in four of those five losses.
In addition to owning the league's worst record, the Sabres (19-39-8) have lost five of six away from home following Thursday's 4-2 setback at Carolina. Buffalo held a 2-1 advantage in the third until Alexander Semin scored the first of three unanswered goals for the Hurricanes at the 11:48 mark. Drew Stafford scored earlier in the period after Tyler Ennis put the Sabres up 1-0 on a first-period penalty shot.
Buffalo was outshot 55-23, tying for the league's second-highest shot differential this season. It also has the top one after being outshot 50-17 in a 2-1 home overtime win over Washington on Dec. 29.
Michal Neuvirth's 51 saves on Thursday were a career best. He stopped 42 shots in a 2-0 loss at Florida last week in his first game since being acquired from Washington.
"I thought he was good again," coach Ted Nolan said. "The one thing our goalies are going to end up doing in the remaining 16 games we have - they're going to get a lot of good looks and play for that position."
Given the Sabres' offensive futility, those goaltenders will likely have to be stellar. Buffalo has four goals over its last four contests and one power-play goal in 16 opportunities while losing five of its last six.
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