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Preview: Rangers at Sabres

Buffalo aims for first season sweep against New York since 2006-07

by Joe Yerdon / Correspondent

RANGERS (31-18-1) at SABRES (20-20-9)



Rangers team scope

The New York Rangers hold the first wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference, and trail the Pittsburgh Penguins by four points for third place in the Metropolitan Division. Pittsburgh has one game in hand. The Rangers have lost two straight, but are 6-0-1 in their past seven road games. Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist will start. Lundqvist is 0-2-0 with a .849 save percentage and a 4.03 goals-against average against Buffalo this season. He is coming off a 6-4 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday, when he gave up three goals in 16 shots and was pulled after 23:38. Though offense has not been an issue this season for the Rangers, who have scored 169 goals, second most in the NHL behind the Penguins (174), forward Rick Nash has one goal in eight games since he returned from a groin injury Jan. 13. New York recalled goaltender Magnus Hellberg from Hartford of the American Hockey League on Thursday. Antti Raanta will miss the game to be with his wife for the birth of the couple's first child.


Sabres team scope

The Buffalo Sabres will try to win their fifth straight home game and sweep the season series against the Rangers for the first time since 2006-07. The Sabres won 4-3 at home on Dec. 1 and won 4-1 at New York on Jan. 3. "You want to try and build your home rink into a place that is tough for other teams to come play," center Jack Eichel said. "You use the home ice advantage, you use your own house, your bed, your own routine at home to your advantage and just try to prepare as well as we can for the game." Forward Nicolas Deslauriers will replace Cal O'Reilly in the Buffalo lineup. O'Reilly has one assist in seven games since being recalled from Rochester of the AHL on Jan. 16. It will be Deslauriers' first career game at center. Forwards Evander Kane and Brian Gionta each have been have been steady scorers of late; Kane has seven points (two goals, five assists) in a four-game point streak and Gionta has four points (three goals, one assist) in a four-game point streak. "It seems like Brian has scored his goals very similarly around the net," coach Dan Bylsma said. "I think that's a result of Evander really hunting down pucks and having pucks in the offensive zone and just getting them to the cage." Goaltender Robin Lehner will start.


Rangers projected lineup

Jimmy Vesey -- Derek Stepan -- Rick Nash

Chris Kreider -- Mika Zibanejad -- Mats Zuccarello

Michael Grabner -- J.T. Miller -- Jesper Fast

Matt Puempel -- Oscar Lindberg -- Pavel Buchnevich

Ryan McDonagh -- Dan Girardi

Marc Staal -- Nick Holden

Brady Skjei -- Kevin Klein

Henrik Lundqvist

Magnus Hellberg

Scratched: Antti Raanta, Brandon Pirri, Adam Clendening

Injured: Kevin Hayes (lower body)


Sabres projected lineup

Matt Moulson -- Ryan O'Reilly -- Kyle Okposo

Marcus Foligno -- Jack Eichel -- Sam Reinhart

Evander Kane -- Zemgus Girgensons -- Brian Gionta

Tyler Ennis -- Nicolas Deslauriers -- William Carrier

Dmitry Kulikov -- Rasmus Ristolainen

Zach Bogosian -- Cody Franson

Justin Falk -- Taylor Fedun

Robin Lehner

Anders Nilsson

Scratched: Cal O'Reilly

Injured: Jake McCabe (shoulder), Josh Gorges (hip), Johan Larsson (wrist)


Status report

The Rangers did not skate on Thursday and the Sabres held an optional skate after a full practice on Wednesday.


Who's hot

Miller has 14 points (seven goals, seven assists) in his past 13 games. … Zuccarello has 18 points (one goal, 17 assists) in his past 17 games.

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