UNIONDALE -- Greetings from the Nassau Coliseum where the Sabres (again) meet the New York Islanders in their second-last game before the all-star break. I don't care about the standings frankly today (the Sabres, for the record, are 11th in the East and eight points out of eighth with three games in hand on Atlanta).
To me, this game is about pride, about representing the sweater in the 40th anniversary season.
I don't want to hear about the improvement of the Islanders under new coach Jack Capuano. Yes, they have some nice young talent and they're 10-6-2 in their last 18 games. But the fact remains that you can't lose three times in eight days to the 14th-place team in the East -- a team that won exactly one game in a 21-game stretch earlier this season and went winless in 14 straight. And the one win was over the equally pathetic Devils, so it almost shouldn't count.
The Sabres have to man up and beat this team today. Period. And I don't want to hear about injuries either. Anybody thinking that the absence of Tim Connolly is really addition by subtraction? Show of hands? Thought so. Let's see how Paul Byron does in his NHL debut. Can he really be any worse than Connolly and Jochen Hecht have been? The Sabres were 4-1-1 when Matt Ellis was here earlier in the year too
Not to slag on the Sabres, because they are 7-3-1 in their last 11. Hard to complain much about that. And they've got a real chance to get even closer to eighth today as Atlanta is at Tampa Bay in a 5 p.m. start. But you can't be losing to the Islanders. Players openly talked about getting all six points in these three games last week. Now the best they can do is two.
They better get those two. End of rant.
Keep it here for all your updates, especially if you're just going to follow here while watching James Starks and the Packers meet the Bears. If you missed Tyler Dunne's neat look at the Starksmania breaking out in Niagara Falls, be sure to check it out here.
The warmup begins in the 2:30 range so I'll let you know if Cody McCormick is on the ice. He has been battling the flu. Connolly, Patrick Kaleta and Drew Stafford are all out today.
Update: McCormick IS on the ice. Byron wears No. 24, Ellis his customary No. 37.
Sabres starters: Niedermayer-Gaustad-Grier-Morrisonn-Myers. Goal: Miller
Islanders starters: Comeau-Bailey-Schremp-Martinek-Hillen. Goal: DiPietro
Scratches: No surprises -- Connolly, Kaleta, Stafford, Butler, Rivet. Evgeni Nabokov is officially listed as an Islanders scratch. They're still waiting to see if he reports.
Of note: Clearly, something is wrong with Vanek. He's played only 7:40 in the game. Twenty minutes to go -- refer to what I wrote at the very top of this post. You have to win just one period to win a game against the Islanders. This isn't the Flyers or Penguins here, folks.
4:55 p.m. The puck is dropped.
19:04 left: Another pause. More debris on the ice. Knuckleheads. The PA announcer just warned the fans one more disruption is a penalty. "There's one fan interrupting the game. You point him out, we'll throw him out."
18:12 left: The PP converts as Gerbe scores his third in two games, popping home a neat backhand pass from Ennis. Sabres lead, 3-2.
18:00 left: Gaustad and Tavares go for roughing. Good trade.
16:07 left: Myers stopped on the goalmouth off a Gerbe pass. But did Bailey knock it in? Under review. AND IT COUNTS. Myers' first since Nov. 15. Sabres lead, 4-2. DiPietro has been badly outplayed by Miller in this one. Four goals in 20 shots. Byron also gets an assist as well as Gerbe for his first NHL point.
10:54 left: Shots are 6-1 for Buffalo in this period. Excellent response after Miller kept this team afloat during a rough second.
3:23 left: Nothing was going on. Sabres were on cruise control. Then they started scrambling around. Eventually Jack Hillen's shot from the left point gets through Miller. And now they have to struggle to the finish. Sabres lead, 4-3. Timeout, Lindy. This note from Sabres info guru Kevin Snow: Paul Byron is the 48th Sabres to get his first NHL point in his first game. Cool.
1:26 left: Niedermayer stopped on 2-on-1 with Gerbe. Pass to the hot man, scoreless one.
23.7 left: Pominville into the middle of the empty net seals a three-goal third and a 5-3 Buffalo win.
Of note: Evgeni Nabokov isn't reporting to the Islanders. Period. He spoke to ESPN.com this afternoon and made his position clear. Islanders owner Charles Wang doesn't understand it.
Weber led the Sabres in ice time at 7:01 in the first period. Byron with a good 5:33 and Ellis at 5:17. Lindy Ruff really shuffled the lines to get everybody time. BUT it looks like there's some issue with Vanek. Everybody in the 4-5 minute range and he was at just 3:13 with only four shifts. He IS on the bench to start the second.
3:58 p.m: The puck is dropped.
19:46 left: Myers for delay of game (puck over glass). Ooof.
18:45 left: The penalty is costly as Matt Moulson bangs home a one-timer off a great pass from behind the net from Tavares, who got what turned out to be a perfect feed from Leopold as he tried to bang the puck behind the net. Game tied, 1-1.
15:02 left: The Sabres go back out in front as Ennis does the give-and-go with Pominville and dribbles one through DiPietro on the backhand. DiPietro has hardly been sharp in this one. Gotta put more pucks to the net. Sabres lead, 2-1. Looked like defenseman Dylan Reese helped the puck in too.
14:33 left: Debris on the ice. Are there a bunch of pennies out there chucked from the crowd?
11:20 left: A note on the Moulson goal -- the Sabres have given up a power-play tally in six of the last seven games, including all three against the Islanders. Buffalo only killing at a 70 percent clip in that stretch (14 of 20 right now).
10:01 left: Miller with the glove stop on Hiller. Shots are 20-14 for the Islanders at the halfway mark of the game.
9:57 left: After showing highlights of last week's game in New England, the scoreboard and an Ice Girl wearing a Mark Sanchez jersey are leading the fans in a chant of "J-E-T-S."
7:33 left: Miller stones Josh Bailey on a breakaway after a long pass gets through Weber and allowed the winger to go in alone.
6:33 left: Isles are starting to skate Sabres out of the building like last week. They break in on a 3-on-2 and Parenteau taps in Tavares' feed to the goalmouth in front of Grier. Game tied, 2-2. Shots are 24-14.
6:00 left: It gets worse. Hecht gets four minutes for high sticking, cutting Nielsen with a hit along the boards. Stupid play, easy call. And Luke Adam isn't here why?
4:14 left: Miller smothers Comeau's slapshot. They gave the second goal to Moulson, who tapped it in at the goal line before it crossed. So that's Moulson's second of the game.
2:36 left: Miller stops Moulson's shot from the circle a few seconds after Tavares curled the puck just wide of an open net. Close call.
1:53 left: Sabres survive the four-minute power play and now they get one of their own. Just as Hecht gets out, Bailey clips Gaustad and he's gone for four minutes.
End-2nd: Sabres had some good zone time but not a lot of good chances. Still 2:07 left on the PP to start the third. It's 2-2 through 40 minutes and shots are 27-15 for the Islanders. It was 17-5 in that period -- that's six goals in the middle frame for the Isles in the two games here against Buffalo.
3:09 p.m: The puck is dropped.
19:45 left: THAT is how you start. Morrisson takes a hit to get the puck in the zone. Niedermayer outworks a defender behind the net to get the puck in front to Grier. His shot leaks through DiPietro and Gaustad taps it home. Sabres lead, 1-0. It's Gaustad's fifth from Niedermayer and Grier.
18:25 left: Byron's first shift, centering Ellis and McCormick. He gets thrown out of the circle.
17:05 left: DiPietro stops Gaustad, who was sent in alone by Vanek.
15:00 left: Shots are 6-1 for Buffalo. You'll recall they were 9-1 for the Islanders to start the game Friday.
13:45 left: Gaustad goes for hooking and the Ice Girls take the ice. Grrrr.
12:16 left: Miller with a couple nice saves on John Tavares and Frans Nielsen. Byron got some PK time early in that penalty with McCormick.
7:42 left: It's a bright, sunny day here but lots of folks are certainly staying home to get ready for Jets-Steelers and to watch Packers-Bears. I'm betting there's about 8,000 or so in the house. The Sabres have skated this way thus far: Niedermayer-Gaustad-Grier, Vanek-Hecht-Pominville, Ellis-Byron-McCormick. Gerbe, who had both goals Friday and played more than 20 minutes, has been spotted and so has Ennis. Odd. On defense it's been Myers-Morrisonn, Leopold-Montador and Weber-Sekera with Gragnani worked in as the No. 7 D.
6:49 left: Miller with a nice save on Grabner's deflection from in front. Shots are 8-6 for Buffalo as the penalty helped the Islanders reclaim some momentum in the game.
59.6 left: In a game with few whistles, the Sabres have been in trouble for the last couple of minutes. Solid period by Miller, who just robbed Bruno Gervais on a one-timer. Islanders now have a 10-9 lead in shots. It was 6-1 for Buffalo.
End-1st: Sabres hold the 1-0 lead and shots were 10-10.