The Ranger vacation is over as they return to action Saturday night in Buffalo against the Sabres at 7 p.m. on MSG. Tough question of the day, who is worse to listen to: Joe Micheletti or Rick Jeanneret? I pick an icepick through the eardrum.
Where We Are: After losing three straight games the Blueshirts had four straight days off. They didn't practice at all one day and had a variety of public appearances on the others so I wouldn't expect any big changes. Sure the lines will be jumbled as Torts is apt to do and there will be three new players in Chad Johnson, Ilkka Heikkinen and Erik Christensen. But I just don't see how any major flaws could be fixed when they aren't concentrating on them.
Where They Are: Buffalo is flying on a four game win streak. I watched as the Sabres smacked the Canadiens aside yesterday and damn, did they look good. They took advantage of Montreal turnovers, they went hard to the net to bang home rebounds down low and they scored from range as well. I feel for that Habs fan in the photo. And their recent success has propelled them to first in the Northeast Division.
Who To Watch For: The thing about Buffalo is that they have no real superstars, all top flight secondary scoring. Sure Thomas Vanek is paid like a top talent - and he is quite good - but he isn't in the upper tier of NHL stars. Goals can come from up and down the lineup, as they showed in the Montreal game: six goals, six different scorers. Clarke MacArthur of all people is tied with Vanek for the team lead in goals, Jason Pominville and Derek Roy are both quite skilled and this Tyler Myers kid doesn't look at all like the young Zdeno Chara we would hope - he is actually good.
What To Watch For: Any kind of mental gaffes; Ranger mistakes will end up with the puck in the back of their net. Tough defensemen like Craig Rivet and Steve Montador will make it quite tough on Gabby around the Sabre net, which will be filled with a healthy Ryan Miller (who has been stellar of late - good for Team USA, bad for NYR). Patrick Kaleta is sure to be a jackass and try to kill someone, and we don't have Paul Mara anymore to try to keep him in line (the two fought again last night).
What We'll (Hopefully) See: A win. Hank to stop some pucks. Anyone other than Gabby to score some pucks. Rangers to stand up for each other. Arty Anisimov to win some faceoffs, which should be easier with Paul Gaustad injured on Buffalo. I would hope for someone to Gomez Ryan Miller but seeing as I want Team USA to win in February, let's just hope they can get the puck past him rather than to take him out. New guys Heikkinen and Christensen to fit in seamlessly and add a spark.
Also Check Out: I can't get Sabres Insider to load, Sabres Not Slugs! hasn't been updated much this season but Shots off the Crossbar is great, as is SBN's Die By The Blade.