Islanders-Sabres Preview

The Associated Press

The Buffalo Sabres and New York Islanders sit out on the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

While the Sabres inched closer to getting back in the mix during their last game, the Islanders took a big step back.

Looking to build on its latest effort, Buffalo tries to avoid a fourth consecutive home defeat to the Islanders as the teams conclude their season series Tuesday night.

The Sabres (25-27-7) are one point behind the 12th-place Islanders (25-26-8) in the East. Both teams have their work cut out if they hope to catch Toronto, which holds the eighth and final playoff spot with 64 points and two fewer games played than Winnipeg.

Buffalo gained a bit of ground and snapped an 0-3-1 skid with Sunday's 6-2 win over Pittsburgh. Derek Roy had two goals and an assist while Ryan Miller made 24 saves.

"A lot of things clicked," said Miller, 2-1-2 with a 4.11 goals-against average over his last six meetings in this series. "We do have the skill to win some hockey games. It's been a matter of being smart and working at it and giving our skill a chance to shine a little more. (Sunday) was a good game for us and I hope we can take that as a little bit of a lesson of what we can do."

The Islanders, in contrast, failed to get on the board for the ninth time this season in falling 6-0 to Ottawa on Monday.

"This was very disappointing. We came with no physicality and stood around and watched their best players," coach Jack Capuano said. "You have to battle and compete and we didn't.

"We need an injection in our lineup. We need something to happen here. We can't have the (lack of) emotion we had here."

Kevin Poulin surrendered two goals in the game's first 95 seconds before getting pulled. Al Montoya turned away 23 shots the rest of the way.

"There wasn't any intensity in our game. We've had a couple of bad starts, but we topped it today. We keep doing this to ourselves," captain Mark Streit said.

"We can't just put our heads hanging right now, we gotta come back strong. We gonna play in Buffalo and it's that time of the year. We gotta turn the page here and be ready."

The Islanders have outscored the Sabres 14-9 in winning three straight at First Niagara Center, including 2-1 on Nov. 29. New York also defeated Buffalo 4-2 at home Jan. 14 before blowing a two-goal lead in a 4-3 shootout loss Feb. 4.

New York's Evgeni Nabokov, who made 23 saves in January's meeting, could be back Tuesday after missing the last three games with flu-like symptoms. Nabokov is 5-1-0 with a 0.98 GAA and two shutouts over his last six road starts.

If in goal, Nabokov could have a hard time slowing down Roy, who's picked up the pace after a lackluster stretch. Roy's five points in three games are one more than his total from his previous 19 contests.

"It's tough. Whenever you're slumping and not scoring and your team's losing hockey games, the burden falls on you," Roy told the Sabres' official website.

"I've just got to keep doing that, working hard to make plays, power play, five-on-five, whatever it takes. Just make plays and score goals."

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