The Buffalo Sabres are struggling — there’s no way around that.
That leaves the Sabres seven points out of eighth place in the Eastern Conference. That’s where tonight’s opponent, the New York Rangers, are in the standings, with two games in hand. Needless to say, an epic run needs to happen and happen now if the Sabres have any hope of making the playoffs this season. So, can they do it three years in a row?
The Rangers have been playing much better hockey after getting off to a much slower start than most would have expected from one of the most talented rosters in the NHL. Rick Nash has been worth everything the Blueshirts gave up for him, and Ryan Callahan and Marian Gaborik have been upping their play as of late.
Last time the two teams met, Patrick Kaleta’s boarding penalty on Brad Richards changed the entire game, giving the Rangers a 5-on-3 which they scored less than 10 seconds into, and a five minute major in which they used to add another goal to take a 2-1 lead. Nathan Gerbe was able to tie it shorthanded, but the Sabres went down in a shootout.
You better believe the Rangers will not forget the Kaleta incident, despite the fact that he is still suspended until Sunday.
This game will be on won or lost on the Sabres’ ability to establish a fore check and stay out of the box. The reigning Vezina Trophy winner Henrik Lundqvist has been solid, but not the same guy he was last year. The Sabres need quality shots, something a forecheck will allow for, and they need to get the Rangers defense on their heels early.
Otherwise, the Rangers’ strong neutral zone and offensive zone play will dictate the game, and likely the score.
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