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Rangers hoping to find consistency in play

by Jon Lane

RANGERS (14-14-0) vs. SABRES (6-20-2)


Last 10: New York 5-5-0; Buffalo 3-6-1

Season series: The New York Rangers and Buffalo Sabres play for the second time this season. Henrik Lundqvist stopped all 29 shots in the Rangers' 2-0 win against the Sabres on Oct. 31.

Big story: The Rangers and Lundqvist agreed to a seven-year contract extension Wednesday. Lundqvist, 8-11-0 with a 2.51 goals-against average and .917 save percentage in 20 games, was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after the season. Instead he remains what general manager Glen Sather called "a cornerstone of the franchise."

"To picture myself anywhere else was just wrong," Lundqvist said. "In my heart it was never an option to play anywhere else. The opportunity to get to play with one club throughout your career is very special. I hope from here, personally, I can just raise my game."

After sitting out the Rangers' past two games, Lundqvist will start against the Sabres.

Team Scope:

Rangers: Coach Alain Vigneault wants consistency from his team, which hasn't won at least three straight games since Nov. 6-10 and dropped to .500 after a 5-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Monday at Madison Square Garden.

Vigneault's message: "Put it together."

"If we are going to get some traction and get past that .500 level we need our top players to play consistently like top players," Vigneault said Tuesday. "We need that core group, the leaders of this room, to perform accordingly. And we have not done that on a consistent basis.

"We are all being tested now."

Sabres: Buffalo has had trouble generating offense. Their 45 non-shootout goals and minus-40 goal differential each ranks last in the League. They have scored one goal or fewer in 14 of 28 games and, according to the Buffalo News, are on pace for 132 goals, which would be the fewest in a season since the League expanded in 1967.

Coach Ted Nolan talked about developing the habit of getting in front of the net more often, and the Sabres used the four days between games to try and create a new mindset.

"They came to work this week," Nolan said after practice Wednesday. "We worked on a few things and we skated them pretty hard. There's no complaints. We needed the time. This was a great time for us to work on a few things, especially in the defensive zone and communication, and talking and getting to know each other. It was a good week."

Who's hot: Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh has points in five of his past six games. Forward Rick Nash has four goals and two assists in eight games since returning from a concussion. … Sabres forward Matt Moulson has goals in two of his past three games.

Injury report: The Rangers have no reported injuries ... Sabres center Cody McCormick (upper body) has been cleared to play after missing four games. "I'm ready. Let's go," McCormick said. "Too long in between games." Alexander Sulzer (undisclosed) will be reevaluated Thursday. Matt D'Agostini (illness) missed practice Wednesday and Nolan said he's hoping he'll be ready for the Rangers.


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