TV: MSG, MSG-Buffalo
LAST 10: Buffalo 6-3-1; N.Y. Rangers 6-3-1
Season Series: This is the third of four meetings this season and the first at Madison Square Garden between the in-state rivals. The Rangers have won the previous two meetings, including a 1-0 five-round shootout victory in their last matchup on Feb. 1 in which Henrik Lundqvist made 34 saves in regulation and overtime for the shutout.
Big Story: The Rangers have a comfortable lead atop the Eastern Conference and appear to be on their way towards wrapping up home ice in the East. If they do clinch the top spot in the conference, the Rangers could potentially end up playing the Sabres, who have improved their play in the past week, giving them an outside shot at earning the eighth spot in the East.
Sabres: Two weeks ago, a three-game losing streak against Eastern Conference competition put a serious dent in Buffalo's postseason hopes. But a 2-0-1 run after that skid had put a little wind in the team's sails, placing them within shouting distance of a playoff spot. The Sabres hoped to continue that strong play when they hosted Boston on Friday night to end a four-game homestand.
Against the Bruins, Ryan Miller stopped 35 shots in regulation and led his squad to a 2-1 shootout victory. Thought to have been out of playoff contention due to recent struggles, the Sabres are within striking distance of the eighth and final playoff spot, as they trail Florida by five points.
"I'm just happy to get some wins," Miller said. "I guess it doesn't really matter who it's against. But we know they're a very good team and we had to play a good game to beat them, and those do feel good."
Rangers: As they have for most of the last two months, the Rangers have maintained their perch on top of the Eastern Conference with consistent play at both ends of the ice. The team opened February with a 6-1-0 run that ended with an emphatic 3-0 win at Boston on Valentine's Day. That victory over the team most likely to battle them for the top spot in the East was a high point for the Blueshirts, but a 1-2-0 stretch followed, with the only win coming in overtime against the last-place Blue Jackets.
Following a 3-0 loss in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, the Rangers hoped to turn things around as they visited the Islanders Friday night. Against their local rivals, the Rangers rallied from 2-0 and 3-1 deficits to get to a shootout, only to lose the tiebreaker and leave the Nassau Coliseum with a 4-3 loss.
"Very sloppy hockey game," coach John Tortorella said. "We were a very sloppy hockey club. We're forgetting how we have to do things."
Who's Hot: The Rangers have lost only 15 games in regulation time this season, despite a struggling power play. But in their 4-3 shootout loss to the Islanders Friday, the Rangers broke out of a 1-for-15 power play drought with two goals in four chances. For Buffalo, Derek Roy has been front and center in the Sabres' recent resurgence. His seven points in his last five games and nine points in February have helped shelve a cold January that saw him record just a goal and an assist in 10 games for the month.
Injury Report: Buffalo's Jochen Hecht remains on IR with a concussion while Brad Boyes and Robyn Regehr are both questionable. Cody McCormick is also out indefinitely with an upper-body injury. … For the Rangers, Michael Sauer is on IR with a concussion.
Stat Pack: How consistent have the Rangers been this season? They haven't lost three straight since opening the season 0-1-2.
Puck Drop: The Sabres will have to keep up with the Rangers' physical style of play. The Rangers are tops in the League in hits while Buffalo ranks last. That could be difficult with both teams playing their second of two games in 24 hours. This season the Sabres are 5-7-3 in the second game of back-to-backs while the Rangers are 6-1-1.