Rangers look to clinch playoff berth tonight against Buffalo
After failing to clinch a playoff berth on Tursday, the Rangers (43-25-9) will take another crack at it tonight as they enter the home stretch of the season, taking on the Buffalo Sabres (32-35-11) at Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers last played on Thursday night, seeing their nine game win streak against the Hurricanes come to an end. They lost in overtime to the Penguins on Monday night as well, and with the Penguins winning again this week, the Rangers now sit in third place in the Metropolitan; one point behind the Pens and two ahead of the Islanders.
Including tonight, there are five games left in the regular season, with four of them coming on home ice for the Rangers. Clinching a playoff berth is obviously a goal, but the team also needs to work on establishing consistent play from the team. They got off to a lousy start in Carolina and then lost in regulation despite leading after two periods.
The Sabres have been playing pretty well lately, going 4-2-1 in their last seven games and playing much more competitively than they did last season. The rebuilding process is going tremendously well, and Buffalo is home to three 20 goal scorers under the age of 25 (Eichel, Kane, Reinhart).
This is the third and final matchup between these two teams, with New York looking for a sweep of the season series. The Rangers also carry a nine game win streak against the Sabres into tonight’s contest. They last played each other on March 8 in Buffalo, with the Rangers winning 4-2 thanks to Antti Raanta’s 34 save performance, and a three point (1-2-3) from Mats Zuccarello. Back on January 25, Henrik Lundqvist stopped 23 shots and the Rangers got goals from Zuccs, Miller, Stalberg and McIlrath while Derick Brassard recorded a career high 5 points.
Chad Johnson signed with the Sabres expecting to be a backup to Robin Lehner. But injuries will limit Lehner to just 21 games, giving Johnson a lot of games this season. He’s made 41 appearances, 38 of them being starts, and has posted a 2.38 GAA along with a .919 save percentage. This will be his 100th career appearance and he’ll be looking to continue his solid season.
When the Sabres signed Ryan O’Reilly to a massive seven year, $7.5 million extension, I thought they had overpaid quite a bit. But O’Reilly has been everything they asked for and more, approaching career highs in points and mentoring the young players on the team. Through 67 games, O’Reilly has scored 56 points (18-38-56), including four points (1-3-4) in the last three games.
Jack Eichel has also been everything the Sabres had hoped he would be when selecting him with the second overall pick in this past draft. The 19 year old forward from Boston University has played consistently well, scoring 23 goals and 51 points through 77 games in his rookie season. Eight of those goals have come on the power play. Eichel plays with poise and maturity that’s not always seen in young players, and will be an excellent piece for the Sabres moving forwards.
Henrik Lundqvist is expected to be back in net for the Rangers, looking to right the ship after a bit of a rough patch. Hank has lost seven of his last nine starts, three in overtime, and has posted a save percentage below .910 five times. The Rangers need him to be at his best and confident moving forward, and tonight would be a good start.
Derick Brassard has enjoyed another successful season this year, despite his performances being a bit inconsistent and sporadic at times. He blew past his career high of 20 goals, leading the team with 27 goals and sitting in second in overall scoring with 57 points. Against the Sabres alone, Brassard has seven points (2-5-7) in just two games. I think he’ll add to that tonight.
Rick Nash scored a vintage power forward goal on Thursday, holding off his defender and sending a great shot past Cam Ward while falling to the ice. Nash now has three goals in his last five games and is looking more and more like himself with each passing shift. He can take advantage of a young Sabres team and try to tack on another goal or two tonight.
The Rangers and the Sabres will faceoff at Madison Square Garden at 7 PM. The game will be broadcasted on MSG Network.
Rick Nash-Derick Brassard-JT Miller
Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Mats Zuccarello
Eric Staal-Kevin Hayes-Jesper Fast
Tanner Glass-Dominic Moore-Viktor Stalberg
Ryan McDonagh-Kevin Klein
Keith Yandle-Dan Girardi
Marc Staal-Dan Boyle
Posted on April 2, 2016, in Game Previews and tagged Buffalo Sabres, Chad Johnson, Derick Brassard, Evander Kane, Henrik Lundqvist, Jack Eichel, Keith Yandle, Madison Square Garden, Mats Zuccarello, MSG, New York Rangers, New York Rangers blog, NYR, Rangers, Rangers blog, Rangers vs Sabres, Rick Nash, Ryan McDonagh, Ryan O'Reilly, Sam Reinhart. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.