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Rangers look to thwart Sabres' quest for eighth

by Brian Hunter
SABRES (29-25-7) at RANGERS (33-27-4)


Last 10:
Buffalo 5-3-2; New York 4-6-0

Season series: Third of four meetings this season. Derek Stepan recorded the hat trick in his NHL debut and Brandon Dubinsky also scored twice as the Rangers won 6-3 in Buffalo on Oct. 9, then they claimed a 3-2 overtime victory at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 11 with Artem Anisimov netting a pair of goals, including the decisive tally 1:32 into the extra period.

Big story:
Henrik Lundqvist probably would have been a workhorse down the stretch regardless, with the Blueshirts working hard to try to lock up a playoff berth and climb as high in the Eastern Conference standings as possible. But with Monday's news that trusty backup Martin Biron is likely to miss at least the rest of the regular season with a broken collarbone, Lundqvist may not see another night off until and unless the team has punched its postseason ticket.

Team Scope:

At the start of Tuesday's action, Buffalo held the advantage of having the most games remaining of any team in the East, with 21 still left to play. The Sabres hold two games in hand on the Hurricanes, the team they trail for eighth by just two points. They're coming off a disappointing 3-2 shootout loss to the Red Wings on Saturday, a game they led 2-0 after the first period, but the team should be buoyed by the addition of Brad Boyes in a trade with St. Louis.

"He's a great guy, great teammate, heck of a hockey player, and I think he's a great addition to the team," forward Tim Connolly said. "He's got a great release with his snap shot and his slap shot. He's a real smart player and it will be my job, if I'm playing with him, to try and get him the puck in scoring areas."

The timing of Biron's injury, suffered during practice Monday, couldn't have been worse because there was no time for New York to make a trade before the 3 p.m. deadline. So the Rangers recalled Cam Talbot from the minors, though it's doubtful he'll get much action unless Lundqvist gets hurt or has to be pulled from a game. The team did add forward John Mitchell in a deal with the Maple Leafs and defenseman Bryan McCabe will play in his second game after coming over from the Panthers.

"I was nervous, for sure, and pretty excited, too," McCabe said after his debut, a 2-1 loss to the Lightning on Sunday. "I had some butterflies before the game, but it will get better as it goes on. I will feel better the more comfortable I get with the guys, and it all will be good."

Who's hot:
Mike Grier has goals in consecutive games for the Sabres. Jochen Hecht has 1 goal and 2 assist during a three-game points streak and is plus-5 over that span. Ryan Miller is only 2-3-1 in his last six starts but he hasn't given up more than two goals in any of those games. … Brandon Prust has 2 goals and 1 assist during a three-game points streak for the Rangers.

Injury report:
Buffalo defenseman Jordan Leopold is day-to-day with an upper-body injury, while forward Derek Roy is out for the season following surgery to repair a torn quad tendon. … Biron and forward Marian Gaborik (concussion) are out indefinitely for New York. Defenseman Marc Staal (knee) and forward Ruslan Fedotenko (shoulder) are day-to-day. Forwards Chris Drury (knee), Derek Boogaard (shoulder/concussion) and Alex Frolov (knee) are on injured reserve, with the latter out for the season.

Stat pack:
The Sabres are 2-0-1 since Terry Pegula assumed ownership of the team. … Prust is tied for second in the NHL with four shorthanded goals, one behind Frans Nielsen of the Islanders.

Puck drop:
Boyes, who scored 43 goals for St. Louis in 2007-08 and added 33 the season after that, is looking forward to joining Buffalo and hopefully rejuvenating his offensive game.

"It's an offensive game, defensemen are involved and they pinch in the offensive zone and guys look to make plays and that's something I'm really excited about," Boyes said regarding Buffalo's style of play during an appearance Monday on NHL Live!.

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