BUFFALO — Connor Jones may not have seemed like the right man for the daunting task of replacing John Tavares, but he did what he was brought up from Bridgeport to do in his NHL debut Sunday.
The 26-year-old played a solid 11:13 in the Islanders’ 4-2 win over the Sabres and came close to a couple of milestones. He appeared to touch the puck to Nick Leddy on a play that ended with Cal Clutterbuck scoring the opening goal, although no assist was given. He also missed the empty net twice in the final minute.
“It was unbelievable,” he said. “In warm-ups, you’re out there, seeing all the fans, everybody, just that amount of people watching you — it’s the stuff you only see on TV. I enjoyed it for a little bit, then it was time to get to work.”
Doug Weight said Jones was chosen over a few higher-scoring Bridgeport forwards because he kills penalties and fits in well with the fourth-line ethos that the Islanders want up and down their lineup.
“He had some energy, just what we thought he’d bring,” Weight said. “He was probably tired, he played a ton for Bridgeport two nights ago, but he looked ready and he did some good things.”
Okposo out with illness
Old friends Tavares, who has a hamstring injury, and Kyle Okposo, who was ill, were sidelined Sunday.
Okposo has 19 goals and 26 assists in 65 games, having lost 10 games to a rib injury last month.
Matt Moulson, another close pal of Tavares, assisted on the Sabres’ second goal to give him 14 goals and 18 assists. Moulson played 11:22, close to his average ice time this season, in which he’s essentially been a power-play specialist. Eleven of his 14 goals have come on Buffalo’s top-ranked power play.