The busy month of March for the New York Rangers is almost over, but the team has two sets of back-to-backs left on the schedule before then. One of those back-to-backs will take place this weekend, as the Blueshirts will host the Buffalo Sabres at Madison Square Garden tonight, and then fly out to Toronto where they will faceoff with the Maple Leafs tomorrow. It's certainly been an up and down month for the Rangers, but they are currently on a high after clinching a playoff spot and plan to finish out this final week strong.
Tonight's contest will mark the end of a seven-game homestand for the Rangers. So far they've went 4-2-0, with their most recent wins coming against the New Jersey Devils on Monday and then again on Wednesday in an overtime thriller against the Detroit Red Wings. If you recall, just prior to the start of the homestand we agreed that the Rangers would be in good position if they were able to grab between 10 and 12 of the possible fourteen points on the table going in. Tonight they will be seeking points nine and ten, so based on that, this is the game that will determine whether the homestand was an overall success or not.
Also, the Rangers will be trying to reach the century mark tonight for the first time since 2005-06. If they are successful in doing so, this will be only the seventh squad to do so in franchise history. That's pretty special.
The Buffalo Sabres, meanwhile, are currently on the outside looking in as far as the playoff race in the Eastern Conference is concerned. However, they've also won two straight games and have earned points in eight of their last 10. Right now, record aside, the Sabres are probably one of the league's hotter teams at the moment. There's room for them to swoop in here and make a serious playoff push that will come down to the wire, and right now they look like a team that will accept nothing short of that.
Buffalo's 3-0 shutout defeat of the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday put them at 11-2-4 since late February. They've been heavily led by the play of goaltender Ryan Miller in net, who has just one regulation loss in his last 16 starts (11-1-4). Tonight's match-up will undoubtedly be a low-scoring goaltender duel, unless these two teams somehow drastically surprise us with a flurry of goals.
For this reason, head coach John Tortorella has elected to stick with the same lineup that suited up against Detroit on Wednesday. That means Henrik Lundqvist will get the start in goal, and hopefully it will be the Henrik Lundqvist that was outstanding after allowing a weak goal to Henrik Zetterberg the other night. Henrik's play as of late has grown into a slight concern, but he'll fight his way out of the funk - he always does.
And as an interesting side note, the Rangers are 3-0-0 against the Sabres so far this season. In those three games, captain Ryan Callahan has the game-winning goal in all of them. Tonight he will look to make that a perfect four, which would also be his second game-winner in two games. Will he be able to complete the task? Never doubt Captain Cally.
New York Rangers Lineup
Hagelin - Richards - Gaborik
Dubinsky - Stepan - Callahan
Anisimov - Boyle - Zuccarello
Rupp - Mitchell - Prust
McDonagh - Girardi
Staal - Del Zotto
Erixon - Bickel