Isles may die by the sword

SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:02 AM ET

SEASON SERIES

The Sabres took three of four meetings, including both games at Buffalo's HSBC Arena.

LAST PLAYOFF MEETING

These two teams haven't met since 1980 and the roles have been reversed. The '80 Islanders, who were a powerhouse about to win their first of four straight Cups, beat Buffalo 4-2.

THE SKINNY

The last two times the Islanders, who won their final four games to get into the playoffs, have qualified for the post-season, they've faced the Eastern Conference's top seed -- and been sent packing in short order ... Bound to be unrestricted free agent, Jason Blake, had career highs in goals (40) and points (69) for the Isles ... Buffalo G Ryan Miller won a franchise-record 40 games ... RW Maxim Afinogenov is refreshed after missing a large chunk with a broken wrist ... Only 34 players had a plus/minus of plus-20 or better. Six of them play for the Sabres, including LW Thomas Vanek, who led the league at plus-45 ... Brian Campbell leads all Buffalo d-men in ice time on the powerplay and even strength ... New York RW Richard Park will play a key role defensively ... The Sabres finished the season with four 30-goal scorers in Vanek, Chris Drury, Daniel Briere and Jason Pominville. The last two teams to boast four 30-goal scorers in the same lineup have gone on to win the Stanley Cup.

HURTING

Islander G Rick DiPietro, perhaps the only hope the Isles have of getting past the Sabres, is out with a concussion but may be cleared in time to play in the series. D Radek Martinek (leg, out for season), C Shawn Bates (sports hernia, week to week), D Joel Bouchard (hamstring, day to day), D Freddy Meyer (finger, indefinite) are also on the limp. Sabres C Paul Gaustad is out with an ankle injury but may return.

POSSIBLE PLAYOFF HERO

Diminutive C Daniel Briere is the entire package. The Sabres' leading scorer potted six game winners during the season. If the Islanders have any chance of upsetting Buffalo, wingers Jason Blake and Ryan Smyth must be front and centre every game. Smyth had 16 points in 24 games in the Oilers' post-season charge in 2006.


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