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Rangers Visit Sabres in Buffalo

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia /

The Rangers look to rebound off of Tuesday's loss to Columbus Thursday night against the Sabres in Columbus.

The Blueshirts are coming off a 6-4 loss to the Blue Jackets that saw them surrender four goals in the second period. After falling behind 6-0, the Rangers scored four in the third, including tallies from Michael Grabner - his 22nd of the season - and Chris Kreider.

Henrik Lundqvist allowed three goals on 16 shots before he gave way to Antti Raanta, who gave up three goals on 10 shots in the loss. 

While he didn't put the blame on his goaltender's shoulders, head coach Alain Vigneault said Tuesday's match could have been different if there was a timely save to to prevent the second period from snowballing out of control.

"In the second period, we had that five-minute span there that I would say where we gave up four scoring chances and all four went in the net," Vigneault said Wednesday. "There's no doubt that we need to stop those kinds of breakdowns, but we also need a timely save."

Lundqvist will get the start for the Rangers against the Sabres Thursday night. He's 3-3-0 in his last six against Buffalo and 17-12-2 for his career.

While Vigneault said he was not 100 percent set in his line combinations from Wednesday's practice, Oscar Lindberg could be back in the lineup after he took normal line rushes. If Lindberg does find his way into the lineup, Brandon Pirri is expected to be the healthy scratch after he practiced as a defenseman Wednesday.

No changes are expected on defense.

Despite Buffalo being tied for the fewest points in the Eastern Conference, Derek Stepan said Wednesday there are no easy games in the NHL and praised the Sabres' youth.

"There's no bad team in this league," Stepan said. "It's hard to get wins. Buffalo has been playing real strong. They're a young group of guys that play fast."

Stepan's words are not hollow, as the Sabres have taken both games against the Rangers this season, most recently a month ago at The Garden when Buffalo won 4-1.

The Sabres are 5-5-0 in their last 10 but have lost their last two, with a 5-2 loss to Montreal Tuesday night.

Buffalo has struggled to score goals this season, with their 120 tallies the second-worst in the Eastern Conference, ahead of just the New Jersey Devils.

Former Islander Kyle Okposo is leading the team with 15 goals and 31 points in 48 games, while second-year forward Sam Reinhart has 30 points in 49 games. Sophomore star Jack Eichel has 21 points through 28 games.

The goaltending tandem of Anders Nilsson and Robin Lehner has been strong for the Sabres this season, with Nilsson posting an 8-7-4 record with a 2.60 GAA and a .923 sv%. Lehner, meanwhile, is 12-13-5 but with a 2.65 GAA and a .918 sv%.

On the injury front, Kevin Hayes remains out with a lower-body injury. Buffalo defensemen Josh Gorges and Jake McCabe are both out.

Rangers (31-18-1, 63 pts) at Sabres (20-20-9, 49 pts)

7:30 pm at KeyBank Center

Live coverage begins on MSG Network at 7 pm

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