By Paul Digiacomo
(AP) — The Buffalo Sabres have been piling up points lately. A meeting with the lowly New York Islanders could help them continue that strong play.
Buffalo looks to earn a point for the eighth time in nine games Saturday night when it visits an Islanders team that hasn’t been able to shut down opponents in losing three straight.
The Sabres (19-19-5) have matched their season-best stretch by going 5-1-1 in their last seven games, the same record they posted Nov. 6-19. They blew a 2-0 lead at home to Philadelphia in a 5-2 loss Tuesday before bouncing back with a 3-2 win over Carolina at HSBC Arena on Thursday.
Buffalo cooled off the Hurricanes, who entered on a 6-0-2 run, and moved within five points of ninth-place Carolina in the Eastern Conference.
“We’re battling hard to get back in the picture,” coach Lindy Ruff said. “It’s desperate right now.”
Ryan Miller made his 20th consecutive start and had 27 saves, while Cody McCormick scored the go-ahead goal, got into a fight and also drew a key penalty to lead the Sabres.
McCormick, a journeyman checking-line center in his first season with Buffalo, also scored and added an assist against the Flyers. He has a career-high 13 points.
“It’s not something you say before a game that you want to go out and fight. You just kind of go with it,” said McCormick, who spent his first five seasons with Colorado. “First and foremost, you want to help the team any way you can. If it’s a goal, assist or a fight, it’s something you’ve got to be able to bring.”
McCormick has recorded a point in three straight games only twice in his career, but he may have a good chance to do so against New York (13-22-7).
The Islanders are near the bottom of the league in goals allowed with 140, and they’ve allowed the opposition to score 15 times in going 0-2-1 over the last three games.
New York let Ottawa score 32 seconds into a 6-4 defeat at home Thursday. The Islanders have allowed their last five opponents to score within the first 5 minutes of the opening period.
“It seems like a trend for us in the first period,” said left wing Blake Comeau, who scored for the fourth time in five games. “The guys are embarrassed, basically.”
New York’s struggles can be attributed to a lack of experience in goal. With Rick DiPietro getting injured after the Islanders traded veteran Dwayne Roloson to Tampa Bay on Jan. 1, Kevin Poulin and Nathan Lawson have been forced into action.
Poulin started against the Senators and allowed two goals on eight shots before being relieved by Lawson, who stopped 15 of 19 shots. Poulin was reinserted in the third period and made 11 more saves.
Despite those struggles, Ruff doesn’t want the Sabres to overlook New York.
“If you don’t play well, I don’t care what team you play in this league,” he said. “Check the Islanders’ record, check who’ve they beat recently. If you don’t play well from team 1-15 in the East, you’re not going to win.”
These teams have split their last six meetings, with each winning on their home ice.
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