Islanders-Sabres Preview

The Associated Press

For the moment, the Buffalo Sabres are not playing any better under their new coach than they did for the old one.

Hoping to avoid a season-high fourth straight loss, the Sabres look to give interim coach Ron Rolston his first victory when they try to continue their recent success against the visiting New York Islanders on Saturday night.

Still feeling the aftershock from the firing of longtime coach Lindy Ruff a day earlier, Buffalo (6-11-1) lost 3-1 at Toronto in Rolston's debut Thursday. The Sabres have lost five of six and their 13 points are tied for the third-fewest in the league.

Rolston coached Buffalo's AHL affiliate in Rochester and Ruff, who played 10 seasons for the Sabres, was the NHL's longest tenured coach.

"It's a change that if we're playing better doesn't happen, but we're moving forward," said forward Tyler Ennis, who scored his first goal in five games. "I think (Rolston's) a great coach. We just have to get some wins."

In order to do that, Buffalo must improve offensively.

The Sabres have been held to one goal three times and shut out another over the last six games. They're converting only 12.3 percent of their power-play chances this season, and 2 of 40 this month.

"Most importantly, we need to generate more shots, more scoring chances,'' Rolston said. "We've got to shoot and get more traffic in front. We've got the guys back there (on defense) who can really shoot it. If we can establish that, it should really open things up for us.''

Cutting down on the number of shots they allow would also help, as the Sabres are giving a league-worst 33.6 per game.

Opponents are also 4 of 12 on the power play in Buffalo's last four games. One of the Maple Leafs' two came during their two-goal second period. The 28 second-period goals Buffalo has yielded are the most in the NHL.

"We just need to go back at it and get better," said Rolston, who inherits a team that allows 3.3 goals per contest.

Rolston hopes to see some improvement at home where the Sabres were often booed during a 2-1 loss to Winnipeg on Tuesday in Ruff's finale. However, they'll be looking for a fourth consecutive victory against the Islanders (7-9-1).

Thomas Vanek had a goal with an assist and Ryan Miller made a season-high 41 saves Feb. 9 when the Sabres won 3-2 at New York despite recording 15 shots on goal.

Vanek ranks among the league leaders with 12 goals but has one in six games. He has two with an assist in his last two against the Islanders.

Miller has a 1.95 goals-against average in the last three versus New York.

The Islanders decided to put oft-injured goalie Rick DiPietro on waivers on Friday, and he'll likely be headed to the minors once he clears, as expected.

The 31-year-old DiPietro, who signed a 15-year contract with New York in 2006, has gone 0-3-0 with a 4.09 GAA in only three games this season while serving as the backup to Evgeni Nabokov.

The Islanders overcame a pair of two-goal deficits to win 4-3 in overtime at Montreal on Thursday. Matt Moulson scored twice on the power play and Thomas Hickey notched the winner for his first NHL goal.

"It's really been a struggle for us this year, starting off on the wrong foot," said star forward John Tavares, who added two assists. "But it's a good way to battle back and know that we can do that."

Though New York allows 3.5 goals per contest, it's converting a league-high 33.3 percent (9 of 27) of its power-play opportunities on the road.

Tavares had a goal against the Sabres this month but has gone without a point in his last two at Buffalo. Moulson has no points in the last three overall in the series.

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