The New York Islanders’ new additions haven’t wasted any time making an impact.
They’ll look for another big night when they complete a season-opening home-and-home series with the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday.
In a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference first-round playoff series that Buffalo won 4-1, the Islanders quickly displayed some offense in a wild 6-4 road victory over the Sabres in Friday’s opener.
The newcomer line of Mike Comrie, Ruslan Fedotenko and Bill Guerin combined for 10 points, while fellow first-year Islander Josef Vasicek had a goal Friday for New York, which won its first season opener since 2001.
“We’ve been together since the first day of camp, so there aren’t excuses about gelling,” said Comrie, whose line combined for six goals and 14 points in three preseason games. “You always want to start off strong, but there’s some things we can improve on as a team.”
The Islanders are already ahead of last season when they started 0-3 and didn’t score their sixth goal until the fourth game.
Buffalo, meanwhile, won’t enjoy the same start it did by winning its first 10 games of 2006-07 on its way to claiming the President’s Trophy before losing to Ottawa in the conference finals.
“We’ve moved on from last year,” Sabres defenseman Brian Campbell said. “We have some work to do. We’re a long ways from where we want to be.”
With former co-captains Chris Drury and Daniel Briere gone via free agency, the Sabres’ offense was there, but their defense that didn’t give goaltender Ryan Miller much help by allowing three power-play goals.
Comrie, who was with Phoenix and Ottawa last season, had two goals and two assists, while Fedotenko, who came from Tampa Bay, had a goal and two assists. Guerin, who spent time last year with St. Louis and San Jose, had three assists Friday. Vasicek played with Nashville and Carolina in 2006-07.
“When you lose players like Blake and Smyth, you have to replace them with good solid NHL guys, and we did that,” New York veteran Mike Sillinger said. “To get these guys going, it was huge for our team.”
After allowing three goals in a first period that ended 3-3, Islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro bounced back, making 22 saves. DiPietro, who signed a 15-year contract, $67.5 million contract last summer is trying to build off a 32-win season.
Miller, meanwhile, who set a franchise record with 40 wins in 2006-07, made 28 saves Friday and hopes for a better defensive performance in front of him Saturday when he’s expected to be in goal.
“The defensive zone seemed chaotic,” Miller said. “We were a little overanxious.”
Buffalo, which has won seven of its last nine over New York, has not lost two in a row to the Islanders since February 2004. The Sabres won 25 games on the road last season—tops in the Eastern Conference.