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Rangers open season with a visit to Buffalo

by Brian Hunter

RANGERS (0-0-0) at SABRES (1-0-0)

TV -- MSG (HD), MSG-B (HD)

Season series -- First of four meetings this season. The Rangers picked up a 2-1 win in the first matchup last season, but the Sabres won the next three, including a 2-1 overtime decision at Madison Square Garden on March 7 and a 5-2 victory at HSBC Arena on April 6 that helped damage New York's postseason aspirations. Buffalo's Patrick Kaleta led all scorers in the series with three goals.

Big story -- It's the season opener for the Rangers, who have been waiting nearly six months to play a meaningful game and start to remove the bad taste from a shootout loss in Philadelphia on the final day of the 2009-10 regular season that kept them out of the playoffs. The Sabres, last season's Northeast Division champs, are playing their first home game after opening the season at Ottawa on Friday.

Team Scope:

Rangers -- Not a whole lot changed during the offseason. The Blueshirts retained John Tortorella as coach. Henrik Lundqvist will once again be a stalwart in goal, though the addition of Martin Biron should reduce his workload slightly. Marian Gaborik is still the scoring star, though the Rangers will require more contributions from the supporting cast, which now includes Tim Kennedy, Todd White and Ruslan Fedotenko. Kennedy was bought out by the Sabres this summer after he received an arbitration award they found a bit too hefty.

"After being here these first few weeks it's such a great place and I want to stay here," said Kennedy, who cleared waivers earlier this week and is expected to be in the lineup against his former team Saturday. "I am relieved that I am still here, and I just want to get back to work."

Sabres -- Derek Roy and Ryan Miller teamed up to get Buffalo off on the right foot Friday night. Roy scored both of the Sabres' goals in a 2-1 win over the division rival Senators, while Miller flashed the form that made him last season's Vezina Trophy winner, stopping 25 shots. Buffalo also killed off all five Ottawa power plays, including a pair late in the third to seal the victory.

"Yeah, it's more satisfying to get the two points and deny them a point, a divisional opponent," Roy said. "We wanted to come out and make a statement, come out real strong, and I thought we did that. We missed a few chances in the first period but at the end of the night we got the win and I think everyone in here is happy."

Who's hot -- Rangers rookie Derek Stepan tied for the team lead with 3 preseason goals, had a team-leading 14 shots and tied for second with 5 points. Fedotenko, who was in camp on a tryout contract, earned a roster spot by leading the team with 7 points. ... Roy led the NHL in preseason scoring with 10 points and continued that production into the regular season. Tyler Ennis assisted on both of his goals.

Injury report -- New York placed forwards Chris Drury (broken finger) and Vinny Prospal (knee) on injured reserve. Defensemen Marc Staal and Michal Rozsival are dealing with groin injuries; Staal is listed as probable for Saturday while Rozsival is questionable.

Stat pack -- Ryan Callahan, whose 19 goals last season were fourth on the Rangers, led the team with 2 goals against the Sabres in the 2009-10 season series. ... Buffalo went 25-10-6 on home ice last season.

Puck drop: Stepan, a second-round pick in the 2008 Entry Draft, makes his NHL debut Saturday after winning the 2010 Lars-Erik Sjoberg Award, given to the best Rangers rookie in training camp, as voted on by the members of the media. The 20-year-old led Wisconsin to the NCAA championship game earlier this year, and his attitude has drawn the praise of Tortorella as much as his offensive ability.

"You can see he's a very mature kid, and I think that's going to help him in speeding up the process of becoming a pro," Tortorella said. "I think he has an intangible about him as far as his mindset. He has a humbleness about him, but he also has a good arrogance about him, and a very mature mindset."

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