April 12, 2014

Goaltending and penalty killing have been outstanding lately for the New York Islanders. They could be a very dangerous team if their last performance is indicative of where their offense is headed.

Buoyed by a remarkable run of penalty killing, the Islanders try to continue their New Year's Eve success Thursday night against the Buffalo Sabres.

New York headed into Tuesday's game in Toronto with four losses in five games and just three goals scored in those defeats. After losing the opener of their home-and-home series 3-1 on Sunday, the Islanders (20-12-5) got exactly what they were looking for on the road, as six different players scored and 13 recorded at least a point in a 6-3 victory.

Captain John Tavares tallied his second goal in 11 contests, Anders Lee ended a 15-game drought and New York matched its season high in goals.

''I just need to produce,'' Tavares said. ''Have to find a way to get the puck in the net, whether it's me, my opportunities or creating more for my line mates.''

Brock Nelson, Frans Nielsen, Nikolay Kulemin and Matt Martin also scored for the Islanders, who denied the Maple Leafs on four power-play opportunities to extend their streak to 35 straight kills over a franchise-record 15 games.

"It's our second year here together with (assistant coach Greg Cronin) and we're kind of figuring out what he wants us to do and our routes," Nielsen said. "We're working hard, sacrificing and hopefully we can keep it going."

With Jaroslav Halak nursing an upper-body injury, Thomas Greiss is likely to make his third consecutive start Thursday.

Signed in the offseason to back up Halak, Greiss has been as good or possibly better than the team's No. 1 netminder with a .932 save percentage that puts him among the NHL leaders. He has allowed two goals or fewer in 10 of his 16 starts.

One area that remains a concern for New York is a power play that is 1 for 24 over the last seven games. That unit ranks in the lower third of the league at 17.5 percent.

Playing on New Year's Eve has proven very beneficial for the Islanders, who are 8-0-1 in their last nine games on Dec. 31, including 18 goals scored during four straight wins.

The last-place Sabres (15-18-4) will be happy to see any team besides Washington after they were swept in a home-and-home set. Buffalo followed Monday's 2-0 home defeat by allowing four unanswered third-period goals in a 5-2 loss Wednesday.

Brian Gionta and Zemgus Girgensons scored for the Sabres, who were enjoying a 2-0-1 stretch before running into the league-leading Capitals.

A struggling power play continues to also be an issue for Buffalo, which went 0 for 4 Wednesday and is scoreless on 21 chances spanning seven games.

"It's always about the next opportunity," coach Dan Bylsma told the team's official website. "We've had opportunities. We just didn't capitalize."

Chad Johnson made 38 saves Wednesday and could be rested in favor of rookie Linus Ullmark, who stopped 29 shots in a 2-1 road victory over the Islanders on Nov. 1. Ullmark, though, is 1-6-2 with a 2.69 goals-against average in his last nine starts.

Matt Moulson and Sam Reinhart scored third-period goals in that win at New York.

Moulson hasn't scored in 24 games and was a healthy scratch Wednesday. He tallied 118 goals for the Islanders from 2009-13.

The Islanders are 6-1-2 in their last nine at Buffalo.

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