Sabres-Islanders Preview

The Associated Press

The Buffalo Sabres haven't won a road game in six weeks. They'll have plenty of opportunities to rectify that through the rest of January.

Buffalo tries to end a seven-game road losing streak when it opens a seven-game trip Saturday night against the Eastern Conference-worst New York Islanders.

This has been a trying first half for the Sabres, who expected to make the jump to legitimate Stanley Cup contender after new owner Terry Pegula committed nearly $140 million in new contracts last summer. Instead the team has been besieged by injuries and wouldn't qualify for the playoffs if the season ended today.

Pegula said it's too early to consider a shake-up because it's difficult to evaluate his team's needs. He also backed Lindy Ruff, saying the coach has had his hands full dealing with a roster decimated by injuries.

"He's got duct tape and baling wire out right now,'' Pegula said. "There's no way you can evaluate our team. It's crazy to do it. And if fans don't understand that, they should look at (injuries) before they jump to conclusions that this team is what it is, because it's not.''

Buffalo (19-19-5) is finally starting to get healthy after having 18 players miss at least one game due to injury. Top center Derek Roy returned to the lineup in Friday's 3-2 win over Toronto after missing two games with a shoulder problem. Goaltender Ryan Miller, defenseman Tyler Myers and forward Ville Leino are all back after missing significant time.

Roy's return helped Buffalo match its goal output from the previous three games combined, and win for only the third time in 12 games (3-7-2).

"It wasn't our best game, so it was nice to be able to get that one,'' right wing Jason Pominville said. "It was fun to see guys keep their composure. We're not going through the stretch we would want, but we were playing well.''

The Sabres will try to win two straight for the first time since Nov. 8 and 11 when they open their longest trip of the season on Long Island, where they've lost four of five. Buffalo doesn't play at home again until Feb. 1.

Since winning at Nashville on Dec. 3, the Sabres have been outscored 27-10 during seven straight regulation road losses.

Miller is 0-6-0 with a 2.89 goals-against average in his last six road starts. He gave up a career-high seven goals in a 7-6 overtime loss at home to the Islanders on Feb. 13 in his most recent matchup.

Coming off an impressive 5-1 rout of Detroit two days earlier, the Islanders (15-20-6) fell 3-2 to Philadelphia on Thursday for their third loss in four games. New York had outscored opponents 12-3 during a three-game home win streak.

Evgeni Nabokov made 19 saves in his 10th consecutive start and was denied his 300th career victory.

"This one is tough to swallow because I thought we played really well,'' Nabokov said. "We just have to keep working hard and try again on Saturday night back here against Buffalo.''

John Tavares extended his point streak to a career-best seven games with his 15th goal. The first-time All-Star has four goals and nine assists during his run.

Tavares has six goals and five assists in nine career contests against the Sabres, while linemate Matt Moulson has four and four in his past five matchups.

New York has won five of six against Buffalo, including a 2-1 road victory Nov. 29 in the first meeting this season.

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