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NHL Preview from The Sports Network

Friday, January 21st (All times eastern)

New York Islanders (14-24-7) at Buffalo Sabres (21-20-5), 7:30 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The Islanders and Sabres will meet for the second time in a week when Buffalo hosts New York tonight at HSBC Arena in the opener of a home-and-home series between these intra-state rivals.

The Islanders and Sabres played last Saturday at Nassau Coliseum and New York notched a 5-3 victory on the strength of a natural hat trick by John Tavares. New York's second-year star has five goals and an assist in five career games against the Sabres.

New York has won three of four and four out of six games in this series overall, but the Isles have dropped three in a row and four of their last five in Buffalo.

The Islanders, who will host the Sabres on Sunday, are just 6-14-3 as the road club this season. Buffalo has won two straight on home ice and is 11-11-1 at HSBC Arena.

The Sabres, who are seven points back of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, picked up their second straight win in their last outing on Thursday, defeating the rival Boston Bruins at TD Garden.

Thomas Vanek notched the winner early in the third period and Ryan Miller stopped 38 shots as Buffalo recorded the 4-2 road victory.

Jason Pominville, Nathan Gerbe and Cody McCormick also tallied for the Sabres, who have also won five of their last seven.

Sabres forward Drew Stafford missed Thursday's game with a groin injury and is questionable for tonight's contest. Stafford is second on the team with 15 goals this season.

The Islanders, meanwhile, have dropped two straight and five of their last six contests. New York recently finished a five-game homestand with a 1-3-1 record and dropped the finale of that residency Thursday against Washington. Rookie goaltender Braden Holtby was solid with 24 saves and Alex Ovechkin assisted on both Washington goals, lifting the Capitals to the 2-1 victory at Nassau Coliseum.

Michael Grabner scored the only goal for New York, which is 14th in the East and 12 points behind Buffalo in the conference standings. The Islanders are just 3-5-1 so far in 2011. Rick DiPietro allowed two goals on 24 shots in the loss.

"We moved the puck well, but we need to get more shots on net," said Grabner.

Islanders forward Kyle Okposo made his season debut in the loss to the Capitals after sitting out the first 45 games of the season while recovering from shoulder surgery. Okposo, who was the seventh overall pick of the 2006 draft, had 19 goals and 52 points in 80 games for New York last season.

01/21 10:53:16 ET

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