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Pregame: Rangers vs. Buffalo

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers
Traverse City Central

Tonight's Game
For the second time in their six annual trips to Traverse City, the Rangers prospects will play in the championship game of the Traverse City Prospects Tournament tonight. The Blueshirts' opponent will be the Buffalo Sabres, whose propsects are competing in this tournament for the first time.

Coming on a 4-3, double-overtime loss to Carolina on Tuesday, the Rangers finished atop the tournament's Gretzky Division with a 2-0-1 record. Their seven points in round-robin play led all eight team in this year's tournament field. Buffalo won the Howe Division with a 2-1-0 record, following a 5-2 lost to host Detroit on Tuesday night. The Rangers and Sabres tied for the tournament lead with 14 goals in three games. The Rangers also finished second to St. Louis in allowing just eight goals in the round robin, while Buffalo allowed 11.

The Rangers won their only other trip to the Traverse City championship game in 2007, when a team featuring current Rangers Artem Anisimov, Brandon Dubinsky, Michael Sauer, and Marc Staal defeated Columbus 5-1.

On Tuesday, the Rangers got goals from Jonathan Audy-Marchessault, Shane McColgan and Christian Thomas before eventually losing to the 'Canes on an unassisted breakaway goal by Justin Shugg at 2:19 of the second overtime, which was played in a 3-on-3 format.

Through their first three games, the Blueshirts prospects' scoring leaders have been Audy-Marchessault and Parlett with five points apiece. Parlett has five assists and needs one today to tie Derek Stepan for the team's single tournament assists record. In addition, Ryan Bourque, the Rangers' all-time goal-scoring leader at Traverse City with eight career goals, needs one point to tie Brandon Dubinsky as the all-time career scoring leader at this tournament. Bourque leads the Rangers with three goals this year.

Scott Stajcer, who has won his last four starts at Traverse City dating back to the 2009 tournament, is expected to be in goal for the Blueshirts. Stajcer is the Rangers' all-time leader among goaltenders in both games played and wins at Traverse City.

Game time is 7 p.m. ET and will air on MSG in both the New York and Buffalo regions. Fans outside the Rangers' and Sabres' broadcast territories can watch the MSG broadcast on the NHL Network.

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Tonight's Opponent
Like the Rangers, Buffalo has brought 25 players to this tournament, and in their first year in the field, they are clearly in it to win it. Last season, new ownership took over the Sabres, vowing to make winning the No. 1 priority, and the Sabres have followed through on that commitment by bringing several experienced, older players to Traverse City. Eight of the Sabres prospects played at least one AHL game last season, including four who were full-time players in the league -- the maximum number permitted under tournament rules.

In terms of pro experience, few players in the tournament field can match that of Sabres center Luke Adam, a 2008 second-round draft pick who scored three goals in 19 NHL games last year. The 21-year-old also dominated at the AHL level with 29 goals and 62 points in 57 games for the Portland Pirates.

Adam is one of 10 players on the Sabres' prospects roster who were selected in the top three rounds of the NHL Entry Draft. The team has two former first-round picks in right wing Zack Kassian (No. 13 overall in 2009) and defenseman Mark Pysyk (No. 23 overall in 2010).

Kassian is considered one of the top NHL prospects for 2011-12 and ranked 14th overall in the 2011 Hockey News Future Watch list of the top 50 prospects playing outside the NHL. Adam ranked 19th on the list -- one spot behind Rangers prospect Chris Kreider, who is not part of the Rangers' roster because he is attending Boston College.

Last season, Kassian scored 26 goals and 77 points in 56 games for the OHL's Windsor Spitfires. Through three games at Traverse City, he has three assists and is tied with three players for second in scoring on the Buffalo roster. The Sabres' top scorer is defenseman Nick Crawford, a 2008 sixth-round pick who spent all of last season in the AHL with Portland. Crawford has two goals and four points through three games. Another key player on the Sabres roster is forward Marcus Foligno, the brother of NHL player Nick Foligno and the son of former NHL star Mike Foligno. He has a goal and two assists in the tournament.

In goal, the Sabres have a choice between Nathan Lieuwen, a 2011 sixth-round pick who played for Kootenay in the WHL last season, and former Yale University netminder Ryan Rondeau, who is with the team on a tryout invitation. Since Lieuwen played in Tuesday night's loss to Detroit, it is possible that Rondeau will get the start after making 23 saves in a 6-3 win over Columbus on Sunday. A native of Alberta, Rondeau played four years at Yale but did not become the Bulldogs' No. 1 goalie until last season, when he dominated the ECAC with a 27-6-1 record and .928 save percentage.

Watch the Game on MSG
Today's MSG Network broadcast of the Traverse City game will feature many new elements, including the integration of Twitter to allow fans to submit questions for both the broadcasters and interview guests. Fans outside the MSG New York and Buffalo broadcast areas can see the game on the NHL Network.

More Tournament Info
The site offers a tournament scoreboard, standings, and individual box scores.
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