The last time the Buffalo Sabres enjoyed such a strong October, they ended up in the Eastern Conference finals behind goaltender Ryan Miller. They likely would settle for a season-high fifth consecutive win Saturday night when they visit the New York Islanders.
The Sabres (8-1-1) have 17 points this month, matching their total from the opening month of the 1975-76 season. Those totals are four points short of the franchise record set in October 2006, the last season Buffalo reached the playoffs.
If the Sabres are going to return to the postseason, they'll need continued outstanding play from Miller, who is 8-0-1 with a league-leading 1.64 goals-against average and a shutout.
He'll likely be in goal against New York (3-4-5) after making 33 saves -- 15 in the third period -- Friday before Tim Connolly scored 1:04 into overtime to clinch a 3-2 win over Toronto. Buffalo hasn't won five in a row since a six-game run Dec. 12-22, 2007.
"That's who he is. He's a battler and the backbone of our team," captain Craig Rivet said of Miller. "We played against a feisty team that wanted a win, and he stood on his head a couple times to help us out. He was the main reason we got the win."
Miller has been even better on the road, winning all four starts with a 1.23 GAA to extend his personal winning streak to seven games, dating to a 3-2 overtime loss at Atlanta on April 1.
He's won four in a row against the Islanders, posting a 2.46 GAA. However, he's 2-3-0 at Nassau Coliseum despite a 2.22 GAA and a shutout.
Miller's 36 saves helped the Sabres beat New York 6-3 at home on Oct. 16, but they've dropped three of the last five meetings as visitors.
The Islanders have won consecutive games for the first time this season, beating Washington 4-3 on Friday as defenseman Mark Streit scored 53 seconds into overtime. That win came two nights after a 3-1 victory over the Rangers ended a three-game slide that included a pair of overtime defeats.
New York has won only two of seven games that have reached overtime or the shootout.
"We were right on the cusp of getting some wins," coach Scott Gordon said. "A lot of things have been coming together."
Gordon may opt to give Dwayne Roloson a third consecutive start after he made 37 saves against the Capitals, one of the highest-scoring teams in the NHL.
The goaltender had been alternating starts with Martin Biron, but a 34-save performance against the Rangers earned him a second consecutive start Friday.
"Without some of the saves he made, we wouldn't have been in position to get a point," Gordon said of Roloson, who turned 40 earlier this month.
Roloson has been steady for New York, going 3-1-3 with a 2.96 GAA in seven games. His worst performance of the season, however, came at Buffalo earlier this month when he was pulled in the second period after allowing four goals on 12 shots. He is 0-5-1 with a tie and a 3.46 GAA in seven career games against the Sabres.