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Been A Minute: New York Islanders Lines & Game Notes vs. Buffalo

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UBS Arena New York Islanders New Home

After 10 days, the New York Islanders (8-12-6) are back in action tonight against the Buffalo Sabres (10-16-5) at UBS Arena. Puck drop is slated for 7:30 PM.

Welcome Back: Three Players Out of COVID-19 Protocol

The Islanders come into this game with points in seven of their last nine contests. The Islanders’ last outcome was a 3-2 shootout loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on Dec. 19. The next four games were postponed due to COVID-19.

Mat Barzal will be playing in his first game since Dec. 11 due to COVID-19. He is riding a six-game point streak, with one goal and eight assist over that span.

The Islanders have a climb ahead of them in the Metropolitan Division standings, as they currently sit in eighth with 22 points, with the Detroit Red Wings holding the second wild-card spot 11 points away with 33.

The Sabres sit three points in front of the Islanders and is the next team the Islanders will be looking to pass.

“I don’t know if it is a now or never but I think this team is ready to take the next step,” forward Ross Johnston said. “I think the last few weeks the team has been playing really good hockey.”

“We’ve been getting mixed results, but I think we have been playing the right way.”

The Islanders thought to be rather short-handed for this matchup, welcomed back Matt Martin, Robin Salo, and Cal Clutterbuck to the ice for Thursday’s morning skate. All three were in COVID-19 protocol.

Zach Parise, Oliver Wahlstrom, Anthony Beauvillier, and Brock Nelson still officially remain in protocol.

Forward Kyle Palmieri and defenseman Ryan Pulock are both out due to lower-body injuries, but have been rehabbing and skating on their own.

“It’s a next-man-up mentality,” Johnston said. “It comes back to the group being really close and trusting whoever’s in the lineup.”

“We’re pretty confident when those last-minute guys are pulled out and guys are put in, that whoever you are playing with, you can make an impact with that person.”

Just because certain players have cleared protocol does not mean they will be game-ready. The fact that Johnston spoke to the media following morning skate is a good indication that he will be in the lineup tonight. Martin, who was just activated out of protocol, has been dealing with a nagging injury this season and could be out  Thursday.

Or Johnston could be playing in another position given guys still missing from the lineup.

We have seen plenty of teams return from time off and play rather sloppy early on. Islanders head coach Barry Trotz has two things he wants his team to focus on in their first game since Dec. 19.

“Probably the number one thing is work ethic and puck management,” Trotz said. “That’s how you get the slop out.”

The Islanders’ opponent in Buffalo will be playing the second of a back-to-back Thursday night. They were defeated by the New Jersey Devils 4-3 in regulation on Wednesday.

Malcolm Subban (0-1-1, 4.79 GAA, .887 SV%) is projected to start for Buffalo after Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen got the nod in goal on Wednesday night.

Alex Tuch and Peyton Krebs, who were acquired by Buffalo from Vegas back on Nov. 4 in the deal for Jack Eichel, made their Sabres debut in the loss Wednesday. Defenseman Ethan Prow, who was called up prior to Wednesday’s contest, scored his first career NHL goal.

Buffalo, according to Sportsnet’s NHL COVID-19 Tracker, is still without Vinnie Hinostroza (Dec. 20), Zemgus Girgensons (Dec. 21), Dylan Cozens (Dec. 26), Mark Jankowski (Dec. 26), and Don Granato (head coach, Dec. 26).

Assistant coach Matt Ellis has been serving as head coach in Granato’s absence.

NEW YORK ISLANDERS LINES (PROJECTED)

Anders Lee — Mathew Barzal — Josh Bailey

Kieffer Bellows — Jean-Gabriel Pageau — Simon Holmstrom

Michael Dal Colle — Austin Czarnik — Cole Bardreau

Ross Johnston — Casey Cizikas — Cal Clutterbuck

Adam Pelech — Scott Mayfield

Zdeno Chara— Noah Dobson

Robin Salo — Andy Greene

Ilya Sorokin

Semyon Varlamov

BUFFALO SABRES LINES (PROJECTED)

John Jason Peterka — Tage Thompson — Alex Tuch

Rasmus Asplund — Arttu Routsalainen — victor Olofsson

Brett Murray — Peyton Krebs — Kyle Okposo

Anders Bjork — Cody Eakin— John Hayden

Rasmus Dahlen — Henri Jokiharju

Mark Pysyk — Casey Fitzgerald

Will Butcher — Ethan Prow

Malcolm Subban

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen

GAME NOTES

The New York Islanders host the Buffalo Sabres in the first matchup between the two clubs this season. The last time these two teams met was on May 4, in Buffalo. Last season, the Islanders finished their eight-game season series against the Sabres with a 6-1-1 record, including a 4-0 record when playing Buffalo on home ice. It has been ten days since the Islanders’ last game, as they return to action tonight after an extended holiday break due to league postponements.

BETTING CORNER

On FanDuel, the New York Islanders are favored at -230 for Thursday’s contest. The Buffalo Sabres are +188. The over is set at 5.5 goals, with the odds at -106. The odds for the under are at -114. These lines are subject to change prior to puck drop and will change once the game begins.

HOW TO WATCH

The game will air on MSG+ locally and MSG GO. On the radio dial, the game can be heard on 1050 AM ESPN, 88.7 FM WRHU and 103.9 FM LI News Radio.

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