Sabres begin three-game series with Islanders in Long Island

Taylor Hall continues to examine how he can exit his slump

(WGR 550) – The Buffalo Sabres take a four-game losing streak into Long Island on Thursday as they start a three-game series with the New York Islanders.

Buffalo has lost nine of 11 games and is 0-3-0 this season against the Islanders. That’s not good news, because the next three games are in Uniondale.

Buffalo has gone from first to third in the NHL on the power play, thanks to the last three games, where they’ve been 0-for-7. Overall in those three games, they’ve scored just two goals, while giving up nine. This is the first time all season that the Sabres have gone three games without scoring a power play goal.

The good news in the last three games, the penalty kill is 7-for-7.

By losing on Tuesday to the New York Rangers, Buffalo's points percentage fell to .375. Only the Anaheim Ducks, Detroit Red Wings and Ottawa Senators are worse.

The Sabres' 15 points are worst in the National Hockey League.

Sam Reinhart has just one point in his last three games, but overall, he’s one of the few Sabres that you could say has been good offensively. In his last 11 games, he has six goals and five assists for 11 points.

Before he got COVID-19, Rasmus Ristolainen was playing the best hockey of his career. The big defenseman has played three games since his recovery, but he really hasn’t been impressed with himself.

“I haven’t really liked my games so far." Ristolainen said following Thursday's morning skate. "It’s hard to come in after being a month out, so I’m just trying to get into the game because the hardest thing is mental, the split second reads. The conditioning part, that’s easy and that’s coming, but it’s still not 100%.”

It probably would help if the coaching staff would reduce his ice-time. In my mind, they’ve foolishly over-used him after he was so sick. His ice-time in those three games was 22:18, 21:01 and 24:01.

Taylor Hall scored in his first game with the Sabres and hasn’t scored since. Ralph Krueger thinks Hall tends to be very hard on himself.

“I’ve watched my shifts, I’ve not watched my shifts after games and when I do, there’s not a whole lot of difference in-between when I’m playing really well and when I’m not," Hall said of himself following the morning skate.

“There’s been a little bit of unluckiness to my game this year with scoring, but do I think I’ve played as bad as my stat line? No. Can I do better defensively? Can I do things that lead to better scoring chances and dirtier scoring chances? Probably, so that’s my focus.”

TSN hockey insider Pierre LeBrun mentioned a few weeks ago that the Sabres have been meeting with Hall’s agent about a possible contract extension. When asked about the report on Thursday, Hall said he's open to anything.

It’s not like I’ve had an amazing statistical year, but I’ve enjoyed my time here, I really like the guys, the coaching staff and the way that we’ve been treated as players and I was never treating this as a one year thing and we’ll have to see what happens.”

The Islanders have points in 13 of their last 15 games, going 9-2-4. They’re 4-0-1 in their last five. New York is fourth in the East Division with a points percentage .636. They’re second in points with 28.

New York gets even scoring throughout its lineup, as Mathew Barzal leads the team with 19 points in 22 games.

The Islanders have scored nine goals against the Sabres this season, and Anders Lee and Jean-Gabriel Pageau have seven of them. New York has beaten the Sabres in six-straight games.

Join Schopp and the Bulldog at 6 p.m. EST for pregame coverage on WGR, when they’ll be joined by Krueger, Ristolainen and Hall.