SABRES (9-12-1) at RANGERS (9-8-2)
TV: MSG-Buffalo, MSG
Last 10: Buffalo 4-6-0; New York 5-3-2
Season series: This is the first of three meetings; the teams play again March 12. Last season, the Rangers won two of three, one in overtime, one in a shootout.
Big story: The Rangers sit 10th in the Eastern Conference standings, one place above where they started February. Their recent 1-3-2 stretch has kept them from moving higher, but they had passed the Sabres, who are 12th, four points behind eighth-place Philadelphia.
Sabres: Buffalo won its third straight and second consecutive shootout, 4-3 against the New Jersey Devils on Saturday. The streak comes after losing its first two under interim coach Ron Rolston.
"This is what we've talked about," forward Steve Ott told MSG Network on Saturday. "We're still a long way away; until we've solidified a playoff spot, we're still long way away. … We still have to collect points."
The Sabres trailed in two of the three games during their winning streak.
"We're getting more resilient as a team, and I think that's a good sign for us," Rolston said. "When I first got here, if we had given up the third goal, it might have been a different result. Now were finding a way to win games rather than finding ways to lose games."
The Sabres played Saturday without leading scorer Thomas Vanek, who was out with an upper-body injury.
"I think it shows we're a team, it's not a one-player thing," said captain Jason Pominville, who scored twice without his linemate. "One player isn't going to make a difference if we stick to our system."
The Sabres' power play went 0-for-6 and is in streaks of 1-for-20, 2-for-36 and 3-for-54.
"We need the power play to click to make the momentum change and bury teams [when we have that chance]," Ott said.
Rangers: Three of New York's next four games are at Madison Square Garden. A 4-1 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning at MSG on Thursday ended a four-game losing streak.
"We were playing pretty well before that, we just couldn't get a win," forward J.T. Miller told Blueshirts United on Saturday. "And we finally put 60 minutes together and really dominated in that first period especially, and just got better throughout the game.
"To get that, I think the boys are finally, 'All right, here we go, we can start building off something.' It was just really good for the locker room. ... We needed that, and we just really need to get another one here to start stringing some wins together."
A four-game road trip begins at the Washington Capitals next Sunday.
"We need to get a couple games in a row here, start putting a little streak together to climb up in the standings," defenseman Michael Del Zotto said. "I think consistency is the biggest thing for us. ... We've have a nice little homestand here, we've got to take care of these home games, one game at a time, and then take that on the road and keep it consistent."
Rick Nash returned from injury with a goal and 12 shots against the Lightning, and coach John Tortorella said the forward's presence specifically helped slumping linemate Brad Richards, who had an assist on Nash's goal for his second point in five games.
"I think Brad played his best game of the season on Thursday," Tortorella said. "He cares so much, and sometimes I wish he didn't care as much because it paralyzes him a little bit. He allowed himself to play, and you could just see the flow in his game [Thursday]. It's encouraging."
Who's hot: Pominville's two goals broke a stretch of one in 11 games. Forward Cody Hodgson had two assists Saturday; he has four points in his past three games, and has five multipoint games. … Nash had a goal and assist, and Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh had two assists in returns from injury Thursday. Defenseman Marc Staal and forward Ryan Callahan each have three points in the past four games.
Injury report: Vanek's status for Sunday is unknown. Defensemen Alexander Sulzer (lower body) and Jordan Leopold (upper body) are day-to-day. … Rangers forward Arron Asham (undisclosed) is day-to-day.
|M. Del Zotto||18||2||6||8||+3||8||0||0|