The New York Rangers showed no mercy against a Buffalo Sabres team that came into Madison Square Garden on Thursday having lost five of its previous six games. The Rangers pounced, firing 38 shots at Ryan Miller through the first two periods on their way to a 2-0 win.
The Rangers are hoping to have the same jump Saturday night against the visiting Carolina Hurricanes, who have lost four straight games after dropping a 3-1 decision against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday night.
The Rangers did not play Friday and held an optional skate Saturday.
"That is one of our keys for tonight. Carolina played last night and they travelled," Rangers assistant coach Ulf Samuelsson told the Rangers website. "So we want to come out in full speed and come out as fast as possible."
The Hurricanes could bolster their blue line after activating defenseman Brett Bellemore from injured reserve Saturday. Bellemore missed two games with an injury sustained in a 3-1 loss at the Minnesota Wild on Oct. 24.
Bellemore and defensive his peers could have their hands full against a Rangers forward unit that appears to have found its stride, with a spark provided by speedy forwards Carl Hagelin and Chris Kreider. Hagelin returned from a shoulder injury on Oct. 29, and Kreider was called up Oct. 20 from the team's American Hockey League affiliate in Hartford. The two have combined for two goals and one assist in the past two games.
Samuelsson lauded the speed that each forward provides.
"[Speed] kind of backs the whole team off. You get some easier entries, you get some scoring off the rush. You don't have to dump puck in as much as we have in the past," he said. "It's been a breath of fresh air for us."
Injured Rangers captain Ryan Callahan participated in the optional skate, as did backup goaltender Cam Talbot, meaning Henrik Lundqvist is likely to start in net. Justin Peters started Friday against the Lightning, meaning Mike Murphy could see his first action of the season and the third NHL appearance of his career.
Here are the projected lineups for the Hurricanes and Rangers:
Jiri Tlusty - Eric Staal - Alexander Semin
Nathan Gerbe - Jordan Staal - Patrick Dwyer
Elias Lindholm - Riley Nash - Tuomo Ruutu
Drayson Bowman - Manny Malhotra - Brett Sutter
Justin Falk - Andrej Sekera
Ryan Murphy - Jay Harrison
Tim Gleason - Ron Hainsey
Scratched: Mike Komisarek, Kevin Westgarth, Brett Bellemore
Injured: Anton Khudobin (lower body), Can Ward (lower body), Jeff Skinner (upper body), Radek Dvorak (lower body)
Mats Zuccarello - Derek Stepan - Chris Kreider
Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Benoit Pouliot
J.T. Miller - Derick Brassard - Taylor Pyatt
Derek Dorsett - Brian Boyle - Brandon Mashinter
Dan Girardi - Ryan McDonagh
Anton Stralman - Marc Staal
Michael Del Zotto - John Moore
Scratched: Justin Falk
Injured: Ryan Callahan (thumb), Rick Nash (head), Dominic Moore (strained oblique)