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Rangers try to stay hot vs. Sabres

by John Kreiser

RANGERS (41-30-5) at SABRES (38-29-9)


Last 10 --
New York 8-1-1; Buffalo 6-3-1

Season series -- It's the last of four meetings between the teams, and the Rangers' first trip to Buffalo since their 6-3 win on opening night. New York also won 3-2 in a shootout at home on Nov. 11, and the Sabres won 3-2 at Madison Square Garden on March 1.

Big story -- The Sabres are chasing the Rangers for seventh and trying to distance themselves from ninth-place Carolina. They can catch New York with a regulation win -- but that won't be easy. The Rangers are playing their best hockey of the season, earning 17 of the last 20 available points, including five of six last week.

Team Scope:

Rangers -- The Rangers scored all of three goals last week, one each against Florida, Ottawa and Boston. That was good enough for two wins and a shootout loss, thanks to the heroics of goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who allowed just one goal (to Ottawa) and earned a pair of 1-0 shutout victories.

"He's going to have to be like that for us if we're going to continue," coach John Tortorella said. "He has stepped up his play when we needed him."

Sabres -- Buffalo could have come into this game in seventh place, but the Sabres lost 4-3 at Toronto on Tuesday night, its first regulation loss in six games. Ryan Miller, the NHL's First Star last week after allowing just two goals while going 3-0-0, allowed twice that number in less than 34 minutes.

"I had a chance to set the tone on my end and didn't do it," Miller said of his performance in Toronto. "It just kind of went from there."

Who's hot -- Lundqvist has stopped 77 of the last 78 shots he's faced. … Thomas Vanek has scored in Buffalo's last two games and leads the Sabres with 27 goals and 65 points.

Injury report --
The Rangers are still without goalie Martin Biron (broken collarbone), and forwards Derek Boogaard (concussion), Alexander Frolov (knee surgery) and Chris Drury (knee) … Buffalo is without defenseman Jordan Leopold (broken hand) for the rest of the season. Forward Derek Roy (leg) won't be back until next season.

Stat pack -- Lundqvist leads the NHL with 11 shutouts, the most by a Rangers goaltender since John Ross Roach had 13 in 1928-29, the franchise's third season in the NHL. … The Rangers went 10-0-2 in their first 12 meetings with the Sabres after Buffalo entered the NHL in 1970. Since then, they are 47-70-23-5.

Puck drop -- This figures to be a battle between two of the NHL's best goaltenders, but neither Lundqvist nor Miller has been particularly good against the other. Both are 1-1-0 in two starts; Lundqvist has a 3.03 goals-against average and .903 save percentage; Miller is at 3.56 and .879.

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