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Buffalo Sabres game preview: 12/31/18 vs. NY Islanders

STAFF REPORTS


LAST GAME
Saturday, December 29
Boston 3 at Buffalo 2 (OT)
Goals: Scandella, Larsson
Goalie: Hutton (39 saves/42 shots)
PP: 0/3; PK: 3/4; Shots: Boston 42 – Buffalo 28

CURRENT INJURIES – (Man Games Lost: 155)Player (injury, first game missed) – total games missedScott Wilson (ankle, Oct. 4; injured reserve) – 39 games
Casey Nelson (upper body, Dec. 8; injured reserve) – 10 games
Zemgus Girgensons (upper body, Dec. 29; injured reserve) – 1 game
Linus Ullmark (illness, Dec. 29) – 1 game

TRANSACTIONS IN PAST 7 DAYS12/29: Recalled G Scott Wedgewood from Rochester (AHL); Activated F Jason Pominville from IR; Placed F Zemgus Girgensons on IR
12/30: Assigned G Scott Wedgewood to Rochester (AHL)

UPCOMING GAMESThursday, Jan. 3: Florida at Buffalo, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 5: Buffalo at Boston, 7 p.m.
Tuesday, Jan. 8: New Jersey at Buffalo, 7 p.m.
Friday, Jan. 11: Buffalo at Carolina, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 12: Tampa Bay at Buffalo

TONIGHT'S GAMEISLANDERS at SABRES
  • This is the first of three meetings between the Sabres and Islanders this season.
  • Last meeting: Buffalo defeated New York 4-3 in Buffalo on Feb. 8
  • Next meeting: Tuesday, Feb. 12 in Buffalo
  • The Sabres are 4-5-1 in their last 10 games vs. the Islanders; 5-4-1 at home.
  • This is the 149th game all-time between Buffalo and New York; Buffalo has an 81-63-24 series record.
  • The Sabres are 45-27-12 at home against the Islanders all-time.
THIS DAY IN SABRES HISTORY
  • The Sabres are 13-13-5 all-time on December 31.
  • December 31, 1987: The Sabres trade Paul Cyr and a 10th-round draft pick in 1988 (Eric Fenton) to the New York Rangers for Mike Donnelly and a fifth-round pick in 1988 (Alexander Mogilny).
  • December 31, 1993: Alexander Mogilny appears in his 300th NHL game and Dominik Hasek stops 39 of 40 shots as the Sabres defeat the Rangers 4-1 at Buffalo Memorial Auditorium.
  • December 31, 1997: Michael Peca scores two shorthanded goals in a 3-0 win over Ottawa. Peca still shares the franchise record for most shorthanded goals scored in one game by a single player with Alexei Zhitnik, Bob Sweeney and Don Luce.
THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW
  • The Sabres are 12-10-3 all-time in New Year's Eve home games, including a 1-3-1 record against the Islanders (1982, 1989, 1995, 2002, 2015).
  • Ten of Buffalo's last 12 home games against the Islanders have been decided by a single goal, including five overtime games.
  • These teams met three years ago on this date, with the Islanders earning a 2-1 victory in Buffalo. Only seven Sabres who dressed for that game (Bogosian, Eichel, Larsson, McCabe, Reinhart, Ristolainen, Ullmark) are currently on the team's roster, though Kyle Okposo dressed for New York.
  • Buffalo entered play Sunday ranked sixth in the NHL with a penalty kill percentage of 83.5 percent this season and ranked first in the league since the beginning of December with a 91.2 percent success rate.
  • Jack Eichel's 18 multi-point games this season tied him for second-most in the league entering play Sunday and have already matched his single-season high.
  • Vladimir Sobotka is expected to appear in his 500th NHL game tonight.
HOME COOKINGBuffalo enters tonight's game with a 12-4-3 (.711) record at home. The team's .711 points percentage at home ranked fourth in the NHL before Sunday's games and puts the Sabres on pace for their eighth-best home record ever, and their best since the 1982-83 season (25-7-8, .725).
COMEBACK KIDS
  • The Sabres are 6-9-2 this season when trailing after two periods. Their six wins when trailing after 40 minutes ties for second-most in the league and their .353 win percentage in those games ranks second.
  • Buffalo's six wins when trailing after two have already surpassed last season's total and leave the team three third-period comebacks shy of the franchise record of nine set in the 2005-06 season.
NOT TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT
  • The Sabres are 11-3-6 in one-goal games so far this season. Buffalo last won more than half of its one-goal games in a season in 2011-12 (21-9-11).
  • The team's current .550 winning percentage in one-goal games would be the 16th-best mark in franchise history and would be the Sabres' best record in one-goal games since 2006-07 (25-9-7, .610).
WORKING OVERTIME
  • The Sabres are 8-6 in games that have been tied after regulation this season, including a 5-5 record in overtime and a 3-1 record in shootouts. Their five overtime wins have already matched their overtime win total from last season (5-10) and their three shootout wins are the team's highest total since 2014-15 (8-5).
  • Jeff Skinner entered play Sunday tied for the league lead with three overtime goals this season. Skinner's total through 35 games matches the Sabres' single-season record shared by Daniel Briere (2006-07) and Derek Roy (2009-10) and ties him for 10th-most career overtime goals in franchise history.
SAM I AM
  • Sam Reinhart has recorded 35 points (8+27) in his last 31 games, including each of his career-high 12 multi-point games this season. His 30 assists this season have already matched his previous career high.
  • The Sabres are 16-5-4 this season when Reinhart records at least one point and 27-4-6 (.811) in his career when he records at least two.
DAH-LEAN ON MEEntering play Sunday, Rasmus Dahlin led rookie defensemen and tied for third among all NHL rookies with 20 points (4+16) this season.
  • With his 20th point in his 37th game on Dec. 22 vs. Anaheim, he was the fourth-fastest 18-year-old defenseman in NHL history to reach the 20-point mark, trailing only Phil Housley (28 GP), Ray Bourque (30 GP) and Aaron Ekblad (34 GP).
  • Only nine defensemen in NHL history have recorded more points before their 19th birthdays than Dahlin's
  • Dahlin's totals put him on pace for 42 points this season. It would tie as the seventh-most by a rookie defenseman since the 2005-06 season and would trail only Phil Housley (57 points in 1982-83) for most ever by a defenseman before his 19th birthday.
LEADING THE WAY
  • Since Jack Eichel, Jeff Skinner and Sam Reinhart began playing together on Nov. 13 vs. Tampa Bay, the Sabres have gone 12-6-4 and gotten a goal from at least one of the three in all but three of the team's 22 games.
  • Each of the three has played at or near a point-per-game pace in the 22 games since they began playing together as a line:
    • Eichel: 30 points (11+19), plus-10 rating
    • Reinhart: 26 points (6+20), plus-10 rating
    • Skinner: 20 points (14+6), plus-7 rating
  • All three are currently on pace to shatter their personal bests in points on the strength of career-best production at even strength that ranks them each among the best even-strength players in the league this season:
Player/Season GP G A PTS ES G ES A ES P
Eichel Career High (2017-18) 67 25 39 64 22 20 42
Eichel 2018-19 39 15 34 49 11 25 36
Eichel 2018-19 (Pace) 82 32 71 103 23 53 76
Skinner Career High (2016-17) 79 37 26 63 30 18 48
Skinner 2018-19 39 26 13 39 20 9 29
Skinner 2018-19 (Pace) 82 55 27 82 42 19 61
Reinhart Career High (2017-18) 82 25 25 50 13 16 29
Reinhart 2018-19 39 8 30 38 7 21 28
Reinhart 2018-19 (Pace) 82 17 63 80 15 44 59
MAKING HISTORY
  • If the Sabres' top line continues its current pace, the team would have three 80-point players for the first time since 1992-93 (Pat LaFontaine, Alexander Mogilny, Dale Hawerchuk).
  • If he maintains his current pace, Jack Eichel would finish the season with the third-most even-strength points ever recorded by a Sabre, trailing only Pat LaFontaine (83) and Mogilny (78) in 1992-93, and would top LaFontaine's franchise-record 52 even-strength assists that season. He would also become the first Sabre to record more than 95 points since the 1992-93 season (LaFontaine/Mogilny/Hawerchuk).
  • Jeff Skinner is currently on pace for the third-most goals in Sabres history, trailing only Mogilny in 1992-93 (76) and Danny Gare in 1979-80 (56). His 42 even-strength goals would finish behind only Mogilny's even-strength total from 1992-93 (49) and Rick Martin's 44 in 1973-74 for most in team history.
SABRES AMONG LEAGUE-LEADERS (Sabres' league rankings before 12/30 games)
  • Buffalo Sabres: 5% PK% (6th), 48 PTS (T-7th), 21 W (T-9th)
  • Eichel: 164 S (2nd), 25 EVA (T-4th), 36 EVP (T-6th), 34 A (T-7th), 49 P (T-9th)
  • Reinhart: 21 EVA (T-10th)
  • Ristolainen: 120 hits (T-5th), 25:34 TOI/GP (6th)
  • Skinner: 3 OTG (T-1st), 26 G (2nd), 20 EVG (T-2nd), 6 GWG (T-2nd), plus-18 (T-9th)
BUF-NYI CONNECTIONSFormer Sabres:
  • Islanders director of goaltending Mitch Korn served as the Sabres goaltending coach for eight seasons (1990-1998).
  • Islanders G Robin Lehner played for the Sabres for three seasons (2015-2018), finishing his tenure with the team with a 42-61 record, 2.77 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage.
Former Islanders:
  • Islanders F Kyle Okposo was selected by the Islanders in the first round (7th overall) of the 2006 NHL Draft. He spent the first nine seasons of his career with the Islanders (2007-2016), recording 369 points (139+230) in 529 games.
Jason Botterill:
  • Was the assistant general manager for the Penguins when Islanders G Thomas Greiss and F Tom Kuhnhackl were playing in Pittsburgh.
Chris Hajt:
  • Played with Islanders assistant coach John Gruden in Washington.
Phil Housley:
  • Played in New Jersey when Islanders General Manager Lou Lamoriello was the general manager of the Devils and Islanders assistant general manager Chris Lamoriello was a scout for the team.
  • Was an assistant coach in Nashville alongside Islanders associate coach Lane Lambert and director of goaltending Mitch Korn when Islanders Head Coach Barry Trotz was the head coach of the Predators.
Matt Hunwick:
  • Played with Islanders D Johnny Boychuk in Boston.
  • Played with Islanders F Tom Kuhnhackl in Pittsburgh.
  • Played with Islanders F Leo Komarov and F Matt Martin in Toronto. Islanders General Manager Lou Lamoriello was the general manager of the Maple Leafs during Hunwick's tenure with the team.
Johan Larsson:
  • Played with Islanders F Cal Clutterbuck in Minnesota.
  • Played for Team Sweden with Islanders G Robin Lehner at the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship.
Jake McCabe:
  • Played for Team USA with Islanders F Brock Nelson at the 2014 and 2016 IIHF World Championships.
Davis Payne:
  • Played with Islanders assistant coach John Gruden in Boston.
Jason Pominville:
  • Played with Islanders F Cal Clutterbuck in Minnesota.
Rasmus Ristolainen:
  • Play for Team Finland with Islanders F Valtteri Filppula at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.
Marco Scandella:
  • Played with Islanders F Cal Clutterbuck in Minnesota.
Conor Sheary:
  • Played with Islanders F Tom Kuhnhackl in Pittsburgh.
Jeff Skinner:
  • Played for Team Canada with Islanders F Cal Clutterbuck at the 2011 IIHF World Championship.
Vladimir Sobotka:
  • Played with Islanders D Johnny Boychuk in Boston.
Tage Thompson:
  • Won a bronze medal with Islanders F Anders Lee while representing the United States at the 2018 IIHF World Championship.
Scott Wilson:
  • Played with Islanders G Thomas Greiss and F Tom Kuhnhackl in Pittsburgh.
SABRES REAL-TIME STATS LEADERSHits: Ristolainen (120), Girgensons (62), Okposo (50)
Blocked Shots: Bogosian (66), Ristolainen (65), McCabe (55)
Shots: Eichel (164), Skinner (118), Ristolainen (99)
SABRES' RECORD IN 10 GAME SEGMENTS [W-L-OTL (PTS), GF/GA, PP, PK]1-10: 6-4-0 (12), 26/28, 8/38, 22/30
11-20: 6-2-2 (14), 35/27, 4/28, 26/29
21-30: 5-3-2 (12), 31/32, 5/28, 23/29
31-40: 4-3-2 (10), 23/24, 6/29, 25/27
OVERTIME RESULTS (5-5; 118-126 all-time)Oct. 27 at CBJ: L, 5-4 (GWG-Panarin, 0:31)
Oct. 30 vs. CGY: L, 2-1 (GWG-Gaudreau, 2:40)
Nov. 8 at MTL: W, 6-5 (GWG-Ristolainen, 1:38)Nov. 19 at PIT: W, 5-4 (GWG-Eichel, 0:45)Nov. 23 vs. MTL: W, 3-2 (GWG-Skinner, 3:06)Nov. 27 vs. SJS: W, 3-2 (GWG-Skinner, 1:41)Nov. 30 at FLA: L, 3-2 (GWG-Barkov, 2:26)
Dec. 4 vs. TOR: L, 4-3 (GWG-Matthews, 4:57)
Dec. 11 vs. LAK: W, 4-3 (GWG-Skinner, 1:49)Dec. 29 vs. BOS: L, 3-2 (GWG-Kuraly, 3:44)
SHOOTOUT RESULTS (3-1; 73-67 all-time)Nov. 10 vs. VAN: W, 4-3 (GDG-Mittelstadt)Nov. 16 at WPG: W, 2-1 (GDG-Sheary)Nov. 24 at DET: W, 3-2 (GDG-Reinhart)Dec. 15 at WSH: L, 4-3 (GDG-Ovechkin)
MILESTONES APPROACHING (Player … Needs … Milestone)Games PlayedVladimir Sobotka … 1 game … 500 career games played
Johan Larsson … 9 games … 300 career games played
AssistsKyle Okposo … 5 assists … 300 career assists
Matt Hunwick … 8 assists … 100 career assists
RECENT MILESTONESN/A


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