NEW YORK – Coming off a 4-1 win at home over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday, the Buffalo Sabres will make no changes to their lineup for their game Saturday night against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
That means Chad Johnson will return to the net for Buffalo, seeking his 21st win of the season. Buffalo went 7-4-4 (.600) in the month of March with Johnson earning six of those victories. It was Buffalo's best month since April 2013 when they went 8-4-0.
"We're winning hockey games, putting points on the board the way we want to, the way we need to to be a good team," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "Tonight's a test like that. It's an important game for the Rangers. They need these points and we're viewing it as a chance for us to play a playoff-type game."
Pittsburgh clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with their 5-0 win over the Islanders on Saturday afternoon and the Rangers can do the same with a win on Saturday. The Rangers, at 95 points, currently sit in third place in the Metropolitan Division and are three points behind the Penguins with a game in hand. The Islanders hold the first Wild Card spot with 93 points.
Buffalo has played two teams in the playoff hunt in the last week and both on the road. While they lost one-goal games both at Detroit and at Pittsburgh, the Sabres put up a tough test against those teams and Bylsma expects his club to work hard to play spoiler against a Rangers team looking for its sixth-straight playoff appearance and 10th appearance in the last 11 years.
"They need these points desperately. I feel that's how the game's going to be played out and I think it's a great challenge for us," Bylsma said. "This is a good team, a great team, a playoff team and one that's going to play that type of hockey. It's one we have to prove we can win these types of games this time of year."
Buffalo's line combinations and defensive pairings will remain intact:
28 Zemgus Girgensons – 90 Ryan O'Reilly – 52 Hudson Fasching
44 Nicolas Deslauriers – 15 Jack Eichel – 23 Sam Reinhart
82 Marcus Foligno – 22 Johan Larsson – 12 Brian Gionta
19 Cal O'Reilly – David Legwand – 26 Matt Moulson
4 Josh Gorges – 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
29 Jake McCabe – 47 Zach Bogosian
3 Mark Pysyk – 34 Casey Nelson
"We've been able to play a pretty tough brand of hockey – a hard brand of hockey with the way we've played. I look at [our guys being] physical throughout our lineup," Bylsma said. "We've seen it from Deslauriers, Foligno and we've played some good hockey teams lately."
Henrik Lundqvist is expected to start in net for the Rangers. He's 17-10-2 in his career against Buffalo with a 2.21 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage. He's one win shy from passing Andy Moog for sole possession of 15th place on the NHL's all-time wins list.