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Top goalies expected to duel as Rangers host Sabres

by Brian Hunter
SABRES (34-20-9) at RANGERS (29-28-8)

Last 10:
Buffalo 2-6-2; New York 5-4-1

Season series:
Third of four meetings this season. The teams met on consecutive Saturday nights in December, each winning in its opponent's building. Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist came within 58.1 seconds of a shutout in a 2-1 win at HSBC Arena on Dec. 5. Patrick Kaleta scored a pair of goals, including the shorthanded game-winner, as the Sabres prevailed 3-2 at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 12.

Big story: In his last start prior to the Olympics, goalie Ryan Miller stopped 27 of 28 shots to lead Buffalo to a win over San Jose. It was a harbinger of things to come. Miller won tournament MVP in leading the U.S. to within a goal of the gold medal and has returned from Vancouver in top form. He stopped 37 shots in a 3-1 loss to Washington (the third goal was an empty-netter) and 27 more in a 3-2 overtime win over Philadelphia.

Team Scope:

Badly in need of two points after losing its first two games out of the break, Buffalo fell behind by a goal twice against Philadelphia on Friday but had the answer each time. Adam Mair got the game to overtime by scoring with 5:58 remaining and Tim Connolly, whose turnover helped set up the second Flyers goal, won it for the Sabres at 2:31 of the extra period.

"It was tough but when I got back to the bench, a lot of the guys told me not to worry about it, go out there and we'll get one back," Connolly said about his misplay. "Mair was able to get one back quick, and that gives you a little boost."

Two games ago against Pittsburgh, the Blueshirts had their offense going but were porous defensively and fell 5-4 in overtime. They got a strong outing by Alex Auld on Saturday in the backup goalie's debut with the team, but no one could step up and score a goal in a 2-0 loss. As a result, the Rangers remained just on the outside of the top eight in the Eastern Conference.

"We had a 2-on-0 and we didn't even get it to the net. They didn't kill us with scoring chances -- when they had chances, they scored," coach John Tortorella said. "We have to find a way when we have opportunities to at least get a shot on net. We struggled with that tonight."

Who's hot:
Vanek scored a goal for Buffalo on Friday for his 300th career point. … Lundqvist made 50 saves in his last start for New York and gave up two goals or less in five consecutive starts prior to that.

Injury report:
Sabres forward Tim Kennedy is day-to-day with an undisclosed illness. Forward Paul Gaustad is expected to miss a week with a hand injury, while forward Drew Stafford is out indefinitely with a groin injury.

Stat pack: Buffalo's Lindy Ruff coached in his 965th game Friday, moving ahead of Jack Adams (Detroit) for third on the NHL list for games coached with one franchise. … Auld became the fifth goalie New York has used this season. Steve Valiquette, Chad Johnson and Matt Zaba have all appeared in at least one game.

Puck drop:
Lundqvist will be back between the pipes for the Rangers on Sunday. A matchup between Sweden and the U.S. never materialized at the Olympics, but there is still a lot riding on the Lundqvist-Miller matchup expected to take place at the Garden.

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