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Rangers looking to secure postseason berth

Victory against Sabres will clinch spot in playoffs

by Pat Pickens / Correspondent

SABRES (32-35-11) at RANGERS (43-25-9)


NEW YORK -- After falling Thursday in Carolina, then watching the Detroit Red Wings and Boston Bruins both win Friday, the New York Rangers will have another opportunity to clinch a Stanley Cup Playoff berth with a win Saturday against the Buffalo Sabres.

The Rangers will reach the postseason for the sixth straight season if they defeat the Sabres in regulation or overtime, or if the Red Wings lose Saturday at the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Rangers also can clinch with a shootout win or overtime loss if the Maple Leafs beat the Red Wings in regulation.

"That's what we're focused on: take care of our own business, not worried about what's going on around us," Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh said Friday after practice. "Down the stretch, it's all about your group and how you're playing."

New York has lost two straight games and would like to build momentum ahead of the upcoming postseason. Henrik Lundqvist, Saturday's likely starter in goal, has allowed three or more goals in seven of his past nine last nine outings.

"We want to play well at home and have a good feeling in the room, and to do that you have to win games," Lundqvist said Friday. "We've had a lot of tight games lately. Some have gone our way, some have not, but we're still in a pretty good spot."

The Rangers began Saturday in third place in the Metropolitan Division, one point behind the second-place Pittsburgh Penguins and two ahead of the fourth-place New York Islanders, who have a game in hand on the Rangers and Penguins.

The Sabres have gained points in seven of their past 10 games and are coming off a 4-1 home win over Toronto on Thursday. Three of the Sabres' final four games will be on the road, including games against the Rangers and Islanders. Buffalo has not beaten a team currently in a playoff position since Feb. 26 at the San Jose Sharks.

"Right now the focus is so singularly focused on winning hockey games," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said after practicing Friday in Buffalo. "We're playing a playoff team in the Rangers, and it's another taste for us to know what playoff hockey is like this time of the year."

Chad Johnson has won four of his seven outings in goal since Robin Lehner reaggravated an ankle injury in mid-March. Cal O'Reilly, brother of Sabres center Ryan O'Reilly, is coming off the first multi-goal game of his 131-game NHL career.

Neither team had a morning skate Saturday.

Here are the projected lineups:


Zemgus Girgensons-Ryan O'Reilly-Hudson Fasching

Nicolas Deslauriers-Jack Eichel-Sam Reinhart

Marcus Foligno-Johan Larsson-Brian Gionta

Cal O'Reilly-David Legwand-Matt Moulson

Josh Gorges-Rasmus Ristolainen

Jake McCabe-Zach Bogosian

Mark Pysyk-Casey Nelson

Chad Johnson

Linus Ullmark

Injured: Robin Lehner (ankle), Tyler Ennis (concussion), Evander Kane (upper body), Cody McCormick (illness), Cody Franson (concussion)

Scratched: Carlo Colaiacovo, Jason Kasdorf


Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Mats Zuccarello

J.T. Miller-Derick Brassard-Rick Nash

Eric Staal-Kevin Hayes-Jesper Fast

Tanner Glass-Dominic Moore-Viktor Stalberg

Ryan McDonagh-Kevin Klein

Keith Yandle-Dan Girardi

Marc Staal-Dan Boyle

Henrik Lundqvist

Antti Raanta

Injured: None

Scratched: Oscar Lindberg, Dylan McIlrath

Status report: Ennis did not make the trip with Buffalo, but Bylsma said he's hopeful the forward can return for the season's final week, and that Franson likely will not play the remainder of the season.

Who's hot: Stepan has two goals and six assists in his past five games. Nash has three goals in his past five games. … Larsson has two goals and two assists in his past two games.


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