The Rangers' morning skate on Halloween at Madison Square Garden provided one major treat---injured captain Ryan Callahan taking part while wearing a yellow non-contact jersey---and something not nearly as feel-good. Veteran center Dominic Moore was not on the ice and after the skate head coach Alain Vigneault announced that Moore would miss the next seven to ten days due to a strained oblique muscle.
Moore suffered the injury late in the first period of Tuesday's 3-2 win over the Islanders, and did not finish the game. He will be replaced in Thursday's lineup by Brandon Mashinter, who had been a healthy scratch three straight games after making his season debut last Thursday in Philadelphia.
Center - NYR
Goals: 0 | Assists: 1 | Pts: 1
Shots: 11 | +/-: -5
After sitting out all of last season following the death of his wife, Moore returned to the NHL this year, signing with the Rangers as a free agent over the summer. Moore has been centering the Rangers' fourth line and playing a key role on the team's penalty kill. He had appeared in every game this season, picking up one assist, six penalty minutes, and a minus-five plus/minus rating along the way, while averaging 11:52 worth of ice time.
Vigneault acknowledged that "we'll have to find more penalty killers" with Moore sidelined. The return of Carl Hagelin to the lineup on Tuesday added another key penalty killer to the mix; and when Moore went down Tuesday, Mats Zuccarello saw his first penalty killing duty of the season. The head coach added that any call ups from the minor leagues would be on a game-to-game as-needed basis.
Carrying a 4-7-0 record into tonight's contest with the Sabres, the Rangers by no means are taking their struggling opponent lightly. The Sabres enter play with the fewest wins (2) and points (5) in the NHL, but the Blueshirts feel in no position to disregard any team.
"They're a lot like us," explained Benoit Pouliot after the morning skate. "They are a better team than their record. They have an excellent goaltender. They are young and fast. We do not take this game lightly."
Buffalo has lost five of their last six games, and No. 1 goalie Ryan Miller has lost nine of his ten starts so far this season. In addition the Sabres recently traded their main offenisve threat, Thomas Vanek, and are clearly a team in transition---though none of that means anything to the Rangers.
"Their record is not great, but they're still a good team," stated Henrik Lundqvist, who will start in goal for the Rangers on Thursday night. "They're going to come hard and be a desperate team, similar to us. We're improving and playing better, and I expect a tough game."
Former Islander Matt Moulson will face off against the Rangers tonight for the first time as a member of the Buffalo Sabres following his trade from Long Island earlier this week.
"We had a bitter rivalry with the Rangers," said Moulson, who had 10 goals and 10 assists against the Rangers in 22 games as a member of the Islanders. "It's always fun to play in MSG no matter what team you're with. I'm sure it'll be fun out there. The arena looks unbelievable. Hopefully we come away with two points tonight."
Moulson, who said he did not catch Tuesday's Rangers win over the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum, scored two goals in his debut on Monday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning. He said that type of performance made the transition much easier.
"I said before if I had thrown up a stinker out there, I think it would have been a little tougher," he said, laughing.
Looking ahead to tonight's game, Ryan Miller is expected to start in net opposite Henrik Lundqvist.
Buffalo head coach Ron Rolston said he believes the tough start by the Rangers — which he said were aided by travel and injuries — is not conducive to the lineup they have, adding the team has good size and speed up front.
"I don't think [their record] is really indicative of what they are," he said.