The NY Islanders open their season at UBS Arena tonight against the visiting Buffalo Sabres. The Sabres are a young, explosive team and have been a trendy pick this offseason to make a push into the playoffs this season. That push could come at the Islanders' expense, who hope to use elite goaltending and experience to stymie the Sabres attack.
The Sabres are likely to start rookie sensation Devon Levi in net as he looks to make the impressive leap from college hockey to the NHL. Levi was good for the Sabres in seven games late last season, nearly leading the Sabres to the postseason. The Sabres are also coming off two mega-contract extensions this week for Rasmus Dahlin and Owen Power. The Sabres now have Dahlin, Power, Tage Thompson, Dylan Cozens, and Mattias Samuelsson signed for seven or eight years.
Meanwhile, the Isles start at home against the high-flying Sabres, which will give Ilya Sorokin a challenge for his first start of the season. Sorokin, a trendy Vezina Trophy pick, needs to be on his game Saturday. He will need help from the defense, where Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech seem to be splitting up to start the season. Pelech has been skating with Noah Dobson and Pulock with Alexander Romanov. Up front, Simon Holmstrom looks likely to start the season on the top line with Bo Horvat and Mathew Barzal, pushing Anders Lee down to JG Pageau’s line at even strength.
This should be an exciting game to start the season. The Islanders will look to slow down the Sabres and take an early two points from a conference foe.
The Islanders have dominated the Sabres over the last five seasons, holding a record of 14-6-2 over their in-state foes. In one of the more important games for both franchises last season, as both were chasing a playoff spot, the Isles got the best of Sabres in their March 7 matchup, sending the Sabres into a tailspin. In a 2-2 deadlock past the halfway mark of the third period, an Islanders goal was waived off as it was deemed kicked in by Hudson Fashcing. After replay, the call on the ice was overturned, giving the Isles a 3-2 lead which they held on to, claiming two points.
Players to Watch
NYI: Bo Horvat. While the Islanders' opening night roster this season has a decent amount of turnover from last year's opening night roster, it does not have a lot of turnover from the end of the season. A lot of the hope for this season’s team rests on Horvat and Barzal re-kindling their chemistry from the first six games after Horvat’s trade to Long Island and improving the Islanders’ offensive output. That starts against Buffalo.
BUF: Zach Benson. After being selected 13th overall by the Sabres this past July, an injury to Jack Quinn opened the door to Benson making the Sabres’ opening night roster. Benson had seven points in six games this preseason, looking more than worthy of a spot in the NHL, at least to start the season. The Sabres could still choose to send Benson back to juniors after a nine-game trial run, so it will be on Benson to prove that he’s ready for the NHL full-time.
Mat Barzal- Bo Horvat- Simon Holmstrom
Pierre Engvall-Brock Nelson- Kyle Palmieri
Anders Lee- JG Pageau- Hudson Fasching
Matt Martin- Casey Cizikas- Cal Clutterbuck
Adam Pelech-Noah Dobson
Alexander Romanov- Ryan Pulock
Sebastian Aho- Scott Mayfield
Jeff Skinner- Tage Thompson- Alex Tuch
John Jason Peterka- Dylan Cozens- Victor Olofsson
Jordan Greenway- Casey Mittelstadt- Zach Benson
Zemgus Girgensons- Peyton Krebs- Kyle Okposo
Rasmus Dahlin- Mattias Samuelsson
Owen Power- Henri Jokiharju
Conor Clifton- Erik Johnson
Lines courtesy of Daily Faceoff