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Rangers aim for season sweep of Sabres

by Tal Pinchevsky

SABRES (21-49-9) at RANGERS (44-31-5)


Last 10: Buffalo 2-7-1; New York 7-2-1

Season series: The New York Rangers look to sweep the Buffalo Sabres in their third and final game. New York took the previous two matchups, 3-1 in Buffalo on Dec. 5 and 2-0 at Madison Square Garden on Oct. 31. Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist stopped 56 of 57 shots in those two games for a .982 save percentage.

Big story: Looking to secure home ice in the Eastern Conference First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Rangers face a last-place Buffalo team that will finish the season with the NHL's worst record. The Rangers sit in second place in the Metropolitan Division two points ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers, who have a game in hand.

Team Scope:

Sabres: With two regulation wins since the beginning of March and losses in eight of its past nine games, Buffalo is struggling through the final days of a difficult rebuilding season. Injuries to goaltenders Jhonas Enroth and Michal Neuvirth have forced the Sabres to answer with Nathan Lieuwen and Matt Hackett in net.

The Sabres received some good news this week when two of their veteran forwards returned from injury. Chris Stewart was back in the lineup against the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday after missing 16 games with a leg injury. Drew Stafford, Buffalo's best offensive player the past several weeks, will return after missing four games because of an undisclosed injury. He skated on Wednesday alongside Stewart and top center Tyler Ennis.

Defenseman Henrik Tallinder also skated on Wednesday and will be a game-time decision after missing four games with a lower-body injury.

"It felt pretty good," Tallinder said. "I can still feel it a little bit, but it's not pain."

Rangers: New York appears to be getting hot at the perfect time. The Rangers have gone 8-2-1 since losing 1-0 to the San Jose Sharks on March 16, scoring 39 goals in that span for a per-game average of 3.55. They scored four unanswered goals in a 4-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday, one day after officially clinching a spot in the playoffs. After collecting four points in 17 games since being acquired from the Tampa Bay Lightning on March 5, Martin St. Louis enjoyed a breakout game as a Ranger with three assists, including a pair of great passes on goals by Brad Richards and Derek Stepan.

Defenseman Ryan McDonagh practiced Wednesday with a non-contact yellow jersey, marking the second straight day he has skated since injuring his shoulder on April 1. He remains day to day and won't play against the Sabres.

After practice, coach Alain Vigneault revealed that Lundqvist would start and McDonagh had a 50/50 chance of playing in the Rangers' regular-season finale Saturday against the Montreal Canadiens.

Who's hot: Sabres center Cody Hodgson has three goals and seven points in his past six games. … Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello has four goals and eight points during his five-game point streak. Linemate Benoit Pouliot has six points in his current six-game point streak.

Injury report: Sabres goaltenders Enroth (lower body), Neuvirth (lower body) and Lieuwen (concussion) are all out. Defensemen Tyler Myers (upper body), Alexander Sulzer (upper body) and Chad Ruhwedel (concussion) also will not play, nor will forward Zenon Konpoka (back spasms). … Rangers forward Chris Kreider (hand) and McDonagh (shoulder) are out.

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