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By the numbers: Tonight's key points to start the climb out of last place in the Eastern Conference

Tavares
Islanders center John Tavares has seven multi-point games this year, second in the NHL to Steven Stamkos' eight. (Getty Images)

 By Mike Harrington

Yes, you read that headline correctly. Thanks to Alex Ovechkin's hat trick and the Capitals' 5-1 win over New Jersey earlier this afternoon, the Sabres have slipped into 15th and dead last place in the Eastern Conference. 

And things could get even worse in Ron Rolston's home debut tonight against the New York Islanders: If the Sabres lose tonight in regulation and Columbus gets a point at St. Louis, the self-proclaimed "Hockey Heaven" will be dead last in the NHL. Ooof.

A few more numbers to ponder for tonight:

---Thomas Vanek is now tied for the NHL scoring lead with Sidney Crosby at 25 points and Vanek has gone pointless in five of the last six games. John Tavares of the Islanders is tied for fifth at 22 points and his 11 goals are one behind Vanek and Pittsburgh's James Neal for the NHL lead.

---Watch the second period tonight. The Islanders lead the league with 23 goals in the middle stanza -- while the Sabres' 28 goals against are the most by any team in any period. I asked Ryan Miller about the middle-period troubles Thursday night in Toronto and he attributed it to long changes, which is still because every team has that issue. Then Miller fessed up to the changes combined with the team's lack of puck possession.

"Long changes and we don't have the puck and we're not getting the puck deep. There you go," Miller said. "Start form the simplest thing to do and build from there. Guys have to execute. It's brought up, it's mentioned, it's highlighted. You got me.

"I'm trying not to be caught up in it too much. I'm trying to do my job but you guys ask me questions about the game and that's my evaluation. We're trying to figure it out. I think we got a pretty good handle on it. We've just got to execute."

---The Islanders are fourth in the NHL on the power play (25.4 percent) while the Sabres are just 20th in penalty killing (79.5). New York is first on the road at 9 for 27 (33 percent) while the Sabres are just 28th in home PK (72.4 percent).

---Here's one from the AP's John Wawrow: The Isles' power play has gone a stunning 12 for 26 in their their seven wins. In their other 10 games, it's 6 for 45 in going 0-9-1.

---Shake your head at this: The Sabres have led one game after two periods this year and that was Jan. 21 at Toronto. They've trailed in 10 and were tied in 7.

---Another pearl from Wawrow's research: If the Sabres lose tonight, it will be their first time with 12 losses through 19 games since 1986-87, when they were 4-12-3.

---The Islanders entered the NHL in 1972 and enter tonight with 1,354 wins and 1,354 regulation losses. They also have 347 ties and 86 overtime losses.

tagged

New York Islanders | Statistics
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John Vogl

John Vogl

John Vogl has been covering the Sabres since 2002-03, an era that has included playoff runs, last-place finishes and three ownership changes. The award-winning writer is the Buffalo chapter chairman for the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.

@BuffNewsVogl | jvogl@buffnews.com

About Sabres Edge


Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has been covering the Buffalo Sabres since 2007. He is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association and can vouch that exposed flesh freezes instantly when walking in downtown Winnipeg in January.

@BNHarrington | mharrington@buffnews.com


Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz | amoritz@buffnews.com

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