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Rangers look to rebound against the Sabres; Hellberg to backup Lundqvist, not Raanta

Bobby Bevilacqua

rangers vs sabres 2.jpg

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Following an awful defensive effort against the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Rangers (31-18-1) will head to Buffalo to take on the Sabres (20-20-9) in a nationally televised game.

The Rangers lost 6-4 to Columbus in their last start, not getting great goaltending but most importantly, suffering another defensive meltdown. Turnovers, poor puck management and more plagued the team yet again, yet Alain Vigneault will be rolling out the same defensive pairings tonight.

The Sabres also lost their last start, a 5-2 loss at the hands on Montreal. Dmitry Kulikov scored his first as a Sabre and Brian Gionta scored his 12th of the season, but that was after they were down 5-0. Like the Rangers, Buffalo is 5-5-0 in their last 10 games.

This is the third and final meeting between these two teams this season and the second game in Buffalo. The Sabres have won both games this year, winning the last game 4-1 in New York. So far, four Rangers have registered a goal and 11 Rangers have registered a point in the season series. The Rangers have won nine of their last 12 games in Buffalo.

The Sabres have had a successful goaltending duo in Robin Lehner and Anders Nilsson, with Nilsson posting an 8-7-4 record and a 2.60 GAA and a .923 save percentage. Lehner is 12-13-5 but has a 2.65 GAA and a .918 save percentage. I would expect Lehner to start.

Jack Eichel has scored three goals in the two games against the Rangers, and has been extremely effective since returning to the lineup. In 28 games, he has scored 12 goals and nine assists for 21 points. Five of his goals and 10 points have come on the man advantage              . Eichel has an incredible shot and is great in front of the net, which is where the Rangers need to be careful.

Evander Kane also scored a goal in the last game, and he’s been red hot lately. Kane is second on the team with 14 goals but has been scoring in bunches lately. He has a four game point streak going, with seven points (2-5-7) in those games, and 10 points (5-5-10) in the last 10 games. He’s starting to find his scoring touch and is playing well in Buffalo, which is not a good sign for the Rangers.

Magnus Hellberg was recalled today to backup Henrik Lundqvist. Antti Raanta’s wife was expecting the birth of their first child and it seems to be happening today, so Raanta is unavailable. However, Henrik Lundqvist will start. Hank was removed from last game after allowing three goals on 16 shots. He was not playing well but of course, the defense did him no favors. He’ll look to rebound and improve on his 21-13-1 record, 2.78 GAA and .905 save percentage. In his last six appearances in Buffalo (since Mar. 30, 2011), Lundqvist has posted a 3-3-0 record, along with a 2.16 GAA, a .928 SV%, and 1 shutout.

Rick Nash has been pretty quiet as of late, with just two assists in the last five game and no goals since January 14. But he’s had success against Buffalo in his career, with a goal/point in 12 of his last 17 games against the Sabres dating back to Jan. 26, 2007. He has 13 goals and five assists over that span. He’ll look to reignite the chemistry and success of his line with Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich.

Michael Grabner got on the board against the Blue Jackets for his 22nd goal of the season, converting off of an excellent feed from defenseman Brady Skjei. Grabner has registered three multi-goal games against Buffalo in his career, including a hat trick on Feb. 13, 2011. He has 13 points (9-4-13) in 18 games against the Sabres.

The Rangers and the Sabres will faceoff at the KeyBank Center at 7:30 PM. The game will be broadcasted on NBCSN.

POTENTIAL LINEUP

Chris Kreider-Mika Zibanejad-Mats Zuccarello

Jimmy Vesey-Derek Stepan-Rick Nash

Michael Grabner-JT Miller-Jesper Fast

Pavel Buchnevich-Oscar Lindberg-Matt Puempel

Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi

Marc Staal-Nick Holden

Brady Skjei-Kevin Klein

Henrik Lundqvist

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Posted on February 2, 2017, in Game Previews and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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