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Islanders host Sabres after disappointing season opener

NEW YORK -- The New York Islanders begin their third, most pivotal and possibly even final season of playing home games at Barclays Center on Saturday night. They hope Friday night wasn't a harbinger of things to come.

A pair of teams looking to bounce back from season-opening losses will meet when the Islanders host the Buffalo Sabres.

But while the Sabres were competitive in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday, the Islanders followed up an impressive postseason by getting blanked 5-0 by the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday.

The loss was considerably dispiriting for the Islanders, who began a potentially franchise-defining season by going a league-best 6-0-2 in exhibition play.

"We didn't react as well as we had in the preseason," Islanders head coach Doug Weight said following the game. "We stopped moving. After that third goal, it was lights out."

The Islanders are hoping they can begin the process of shutting out the lights on Brooklyn and Barclays Center at some point this season. The ownership group of Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin recently placed a bid to New York State to build a new arena at Belmont Park, located far closer to the franchise's suburban fan base along the Nassau/Queens border.

The Islanders played at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale from 1972 through 2015. They have ranked 28th in the NHL in attendance in each of their two seasons at Barclays Center, which is not easily accessible from Long Island by either car or public transportation, even though the club made the Eastern Conference semifinals in 2016 and missed the playoffs by a point last year.

Both the Islanders and Barclays Center can opt out of a 25-year agreement on Jan. 30, 2018. If the plans for a new arena are in motion by then, it's possible the Islanders could play the next couple seasons at the revamped Nassau Coliseum, which is owned by the same management group that runs Barclays Center. The NHL does not view the new Coliseum, which has only a handful of luxury suites and a seating capacity of 13,000, as a long-term home for the franchise.

The uncertain arena situation appears to be impacting the decision-making process of superstar center John Tavares, who is in the final season of his contract but has yet to sign an extension even though he was eligible to do so beginning July 1.

"The possibility with Belmont and that (bid) coming out, there's great potential there," Tavares told Newsday in August. "We'll see where it goes. A lot of those things are out of my hands. Some things, I don't try to worry about them too, too much. I'm just a hockey player. I try to be as best-prepared as I can be."

The Sabres, under first-year head coach Phil Housley, looked better Thursday than they did during a preseason in which they went an NHL-worst 1-4-1. Buffalo peppered star Canadiens goalie Carey Price with 41 shots while Jason Pominville scored twice.

"We did a lot of good things," said Housley, a Hall of Fame player who spent the first eight seasons of his 21-year career with the Sabres. "We can take a lot away from that game. But it's just one game."

Jaroslav Halak is expected to start in goal for the Islanders after Thomas Greiss struggled Friday. Sabres goalie Robin Lehner, who made 38 saves Thursday, will likely draw a second straight start.

The Islanders had no notable injuries Friday night. Sabres defenseman Zach Bogosian, who missed the season opener with a lower-body injury, skated on Friday, though he didn't practice with the team.

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