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At the Rink: Rangers at Sabres

by Joe Yerdon

BUFFALO -- The New York Rangers will give rookie goalie Mackenzie Skapski his first NHL start when they face the Buffalo Sabres on Friday.

Skapski's debut comes a night after the Rangers lost 5-4 in a shootout to the Vancouver Canucks.

"We've played a lot of hockey lately, including a back-to-back, and after talking to Benoit [Allaire] and [Jim Schoenfeld] and [Jeff Gorton], who know him well, they all said it was a good thing to give him a start," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "He's been playing really well in Hartford, and back-to-back it just felt like the right thing to do."

With Henrik Lundqvist out with a neck injury, Cam Talbot has been the starter for the Rangers. Talbot made 24 saves in the loss to the Canucks. Talbot started eight consecutive games after Lundqvist's injury.

"Goaltenders are there to give your team a chance to win games," Vigneault said. "This is what competition is about, it's about winning, and Cam's done that. He's given us a chance to win, and tonight Mackenzie's going to get a chance to do the same thing."

Vigneault said there will be one change on defense against Buffalo. John Moore will be scratched with Matt Hunwick returning to the lineup.

The Sabres will go back to Michal Neuvirth in goal against the Rangers. Neuvirth made 36 saves in a 3-2 shootout win against the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday and will make his fourth consecutive start since Buffalo traded Jhonas Enroth to the Dallas Stars on Feb. 11.

"You looked at his games, he's only played 20 games, and No. 1s usually play a lot of games," Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. "He's relatively fresh and he should be able to handle that load. He's young, he's athletic, and he didn't play too many games previously, so he should be good."

The Sabres will sit rookie defenseman Nikita Zadorov against the Rangers; Tyson Strachan will replace him in the lineup. In each of the past two games, Zadorov has seen his ice time drop; he played 16:12 against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday and 15:02 against the Flyers. Zadorov has averaged 19:06 of ice time this season.

"That's a key, you pull them back [and] you'd rather them get mad at you for lack of getting out there than getting out there and making mistakes," Nolan said. "Tonight's another example. Zadorov in New Jersey, he coughed up that 3-on-0 breakaway for the opposition. We found he's getting a little overwhelmed lately, so we're going to give him a day off here today and put Strachan in. … In order for proper development to take place, we can't keep putting him in and keep putting him in. You have to sit back and watch and learn."

Here are the projected lineups:


Rick Nash - Derick Brassard - Mats Zuccarello

Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Martin St. Louis

Carl Hagelin - Kevin Hayes - J.T. Miller

Tanner Glass - Dominic Moore - Lee Stempniak

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi

Marc Staal - Kevin Klein

Matt Hunwick - Dan Boyle

Mackenzie Skapski

Cam Talbot

Scratched: John Moore

Injured: Henrik Lundqvist (neck), Jesper Fast (knee)


Chris Stewart - Zemgus Girgensons - Tyler Ennis

Matt Moulson - Torrey Mitchell - Brian Gionta

Marcus Foligno - Brian Flynn - Nicolas Deslauriers

Johan Larsson - Matt Ellis - Cody Hodgson

Andre Benoit - Zach Bogosian

Andrej Meszaros - Rasmus Ristolainen

Mike Weber - Tyson Strachan

Michal Neuvirth

Anders Lindback

Scratched: Nikita Zadorov

Injured: Patrick Kaleta (lower body), Josh Gorges (lower body), Cody McCormick (blood clot)

Status update: Nolan said there will be an update on Gorges' condition in the next 24-48 hours. Gorges hasn't played since Feb. 10 against the Ottawa Senators.

Who's hot: Brassard has six assists during a five-game point streak. Stepan has two goals and seven points in the past three games. St. Louis has two goals and five points in the past three. Klein has a goal and seven points in the past six games… Neuvirth has stopped 98 out of 103 shots in his past three starts.

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