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Rangers looking to rebound in Buffalo; No starting goalie confirmed

Bobby Bevilacqua

chris kreider and derek stepan celebrate 2-16

Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan have both been playing extremely well lately, and make up what has been a formidable second line for the Rangers. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

After losing giving up three leads and falling in the shootout, the Rangers (34-16-6) will take on the Buffalo Sabres (17-37-4) at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, the rescheduled date of a game that was postponed due to snow earlier in the season.

Both teams played last night, so they will be even in that category when it comes to rest. Buffalo’s win over the Philadelphia Flyers last night ended a four game losing streak, but they are still just 3-17-1 in their last 21 games. They are also tied for the third fewest victories on home ice (11), and have the least amount of points in the league (38). They also own the worst goal differential, an unthinkable -89, and in the words of Derek Stepan, these are two points that the Rangers must earn.

In order to come away with a win, the defense has to really tighten up. The Blueshirts have allowed nine goals in the last two games, and 27 in the eight games since Henrik Lundqvist has been out. Yet they are 5-1-2 in those games, due to the Rangers offensive explosion. New York has 26 goals in the last five games, and 33 in the last eight games.

When the Rangers and Sabres met earlier this season at Madison Square Garden, the Rangers offense was on display, scoring a total of six goals, three coming on the power play, in a 6-1 blowout victory. Chris Kreider, Derick Brassard, and Rick Nash all scored goals on the man advantage, and Dan Boyle, Jesper Fast, and Carl Hagelin added even strength goals. Four Rangers skaters had multipoint games.

dan boyle hi five line 1-3

Dan Boyle scored one of the Rangers six goals against the Sabres back on January 3rd. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

 

The Rangers chased Michal Neuvirth early in that game, and will likely face him again. Neuvirth started last night, but has just recently taken over the starter role with Jhonas Enroth getting traded to the Dallas Stars. Neuvirth has started the last three games, allowing just five goals on 103 shots (.951 save percentage) in those games. Neuvirth is 4-15-3 with a 3.09 GAA and a .913 save percentage in 22 starts.

The goalie who will be in net for the Rangers tonight is not as clear. Vigneault left open the possibility that 20 year old Mackenzie Skapski could make his NHL debut tonight. Cam Talbot has not had great defense in front of him, but needs to be playing better. He has kept the opposition to under three goals twice in his eight starts, but has a 5-1-2 record and has made some huge saves for the Rangers.

Since there was no morning skate, the starting goalie announcement will be made at 5:00 PM.

mackenzie skapski

Could Mackenzie Skapski be making his first NHL start tonight in Buffalo? Photo courtesy of the New York Rangers.

 

Although the Rangers are scoring in bunches, the power play has not been all that great lately. The Rangers were 0-3 last night, but are still 10th in the league on the man advantage. The killer instinct on the man advantage was what helped the Rangers bury the Sabres early back on January 3rd. They will need to do the same tonight, capitalizing on every chance that is presented to them.

The Rangers second line, with Chris Kreider, Derek Stepan, and Martin St. Louis is coming together at the right time, with all three of them having very strong games recently. Chris Kreider is showing improved knowledge of how to use his speed and strength to get to the dirty areas of the ice, and is scoring more often as a result. Derek Stepan comes into the game with a three game multipoint streak (2-5-7) with goals in his past two.

Perhaps the most important is Martin St. Louis. The first game after ending a 15 game goal drought, St. Louis was back at it again, having perhaps one of his strongest games in almost two months. He scored another game-tying goal, and enters tonight’s game with a three game point streak (2-3-5).

Derick Brassard is also in the midst of a point streak, assisting on goals in five straight games (6). He has not scored in seven games, and is overdue for one. Brassard is my key player to watch, and he enters tonight’s game second on the team in scoring, with 45 points (13-32-45).

derick brassard smiling 11-5

Derick Brassard has been assisting on a lot of goals lately, six times in the last five games, and is long overdue to net one himself. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

 

The Rangers and the Sabres will face off at 7 PM at the First Niagara Center. The game will be broadcasted on MSG2.

EXPECTED LINEUP

Rick Nash-Derick Brassard-Mats Zuccarello

Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Martin St. Louis

Carl Hagelin-Kevin Hayes-JT Miller

Tanner Glass-Dominic Moore-Lee Stempniak

Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi

Marc Staal-Kevin Klein

John Moore-Dan Boyle

GOALIE UNKNOWN

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Posted on February 20, 2015, in Game Previews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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