[7:00 PM] Islanders @ Sabres

Who will WIN this matchup?

New York Islanders (11-13-5)

@ Buffalo Sabres (11-11-6)


Starting Goalies:

Jean-Francois Berube (NYI): Confirmed

Robin Lehner (BUF): Confirmed


The Buffalo Sabres play eight games in the final 16 days of the calendar year — all against teams they are battling in the crowded Eastern Conference playoff race. Buffalo looks to start that important stretch the right way and move over .500 for the first time since Nov. 5 when it hosts the inconsistent New York Islanders on Friday night. The Sabres won two of three last season — both on the road — against the Islanders, who need a win badly to pull out of another tailspin.

New York had put together a 5-0-1 run to climb over .500 for the first time this season, but has since lost three straight after coughing up an early two-goal lead in a 5-4 setback against Chicago at home Thursday. Anders Lee netted his eighth goal in the last 11 contests and fellow forward Ryan Strome snapped a 20-game goal drought for the Islanders, who also host Buffalo on Dec. 23.

New York had been better defensively during their point streak, allowing 12 goals in six games, but surrendered 15 in the past three contests. Thomas Greiss was in net against Chicago and that could give Friday’s start to Jaroslav Halak, who is 7-2-0 lifetime against the Sabres but has yielded 16 goals in his last four outings overall. Captain John Tavares notched an assist Thursday to push his team-leading total to 23 points — his sixth point in seven games this month — and center Casey Cizikas recorded his first goal in December.

Zach Bogosian, who has been out since Nov. 1 with a sprained MCL, and fellow defenseman Taylor Fedun (shoulder) are skating with the team and could return as early as Friday. That should help a defense that has yielded at least three goals in seven of the last eight games while Buffalo’s offense has been ignited by the return of the 20-year-old Eichel. Kyle Okposo, who faces his former team for the first time, leads the team in goals (nine) and points (21) while defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen boasts a team-high 18 assists.

The Sabres stood fourth in power-play percentage (22.6) and 29th in penalty killing (74.2) entering Thursday’s games.


StreakSmarts Pick: Buffalo Sabres

Confidence: 5/10

StreakSmarter Pick