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Rangers and Sabres meet for first time

by Pete Jensen

RANGERS (15-6-4) at SABRES (15-11-2)


LAST 10: New York 6-3-1; Buffalo 4-4-2

Season Series: Saturday's clash marks the first of four meetings this season between these in-state rivals. The Rangers and Sabres split four games last season, with the lastthree decided by one goal.

Big Story: Maybe it's the new name, but the Sabres have struggled at the First Niagara Center, so they're hoping to build on Friday's 2-1 overtime victory against Florida as the Rangers come to town for the third game of Buffalo's five-game homestand. The Rangers are coming off a disappointing 3-2 shootout loss to Tampa Bay on Thursday in which they allowed the tying goal with less than two minutes remaining in regulation.

Team Scope:

Rangers: After losing consecutive home games this week, New York heads to Buffalo seeking its fourth straight win away from Madison Square Garden. The Rangers also look to overcome an excruciating defeat on Thursday.

In the second period of New York's loss to Tampa Bay, Artem Anisimov notched a shorthanded goal to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead on the Lightning, who had lost five straight. But Anisimov responded with a controversial celebration, setting off a series of scraps that led to 38 combined penalty minutes being distributed. After the dust settled, the Lightning scored a shorthanded goal of its own late in the third period and won the shootout.

"[Anisimov] apologized to the team right away," Tortorella said. "These are lessons. I don't want to make a bigger deal out of it than it is. We need to move right by it. It was wrong. He knows that. I know the leadership of the club will take over to work him through this. He's a pretty innocent guy."

Sabres: Buffalo had lost six of its last seven at home entering Friday's game, but Jason Pominville's overtime goal should give the Sabres and their fans some positive energy heading into the showdown with the Rangers.

"We have to do better at home. We know it," Pominville said. "It's nice to get a win for the fans. Obviously, at times they've been on us a little bit. We feel the heat where we've got to be better at home. If you want to be successful, you've got to win games at home. To pull one off against a really good team in our conference is nothing but positive, and hopefully we can build off the effort."

Who's Hot: Brad Richards has four goals and seven assists for the Rangers during a seven-game point streak. … Pominville has five goals and 10 assists in his last 15 contests.

Injury Report: Defenseman Michael Sauer (concussion) is day-to-day for the Rangers. Marc Staal (concussion) has missed all 25 games this season and remains out indefinitely for New York. Mike Rupp (knee) and Wojtek Wolski (groin) are on IR. … Brad Boyes (knee), Tyler Myers (wrist) and Mike Weber (upper body) are on injured reserve for the Sabres. Nathan Gerbe (upper body) missed Friday's game against Florida and is day-to-day. Paul Gaustad (upper body), Patrick Kaleta (groin) were also out of the lineup, and the Sabres lost Corey Tropp (upper body) and Jochen Hecht (undisclosed) during Friday's game.

Stat Pack: New York, despite injury issues on the blue line, has carried over its defensive prowess from a season ago by ranking fourth in the NHL in goals allowed per game (2.20). Last year, the Rangers were fifth at 2.38.

Puck Drop: With the Sabres missing a number of regulars in the lineup due to injury and struggling to find wins on home ice, Lindy Ruff's squad opted to keep it simple against the Panthers. While the slower pace resulted in only 43 shots on goal by the two teams, the Sabres were able to find the win column - which is all that matters.

"It's probably not the most exciting thing for the fans, but I'm glad we stuck with our system," Miller said. "We had a tired team who was going to sit there and trap us up all night and wait for us to make mistakes. I thought we did a good job eliminating unnecessary odd-man rushes and turnovers. … Props to our guys for doing a nice job with that and hopefully we can move forward with knowledge that we can do that."

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