The four game homestand continues on Thursday as the Rangers face off against the Sabres at 7 pm sharp on MSG. It is the second meeting between the teams this season, as the Rangers opened their schedule in Buffalo with a 6-3 Stepan-fueled victory.
Where We Are: Actually in a decent position all things considered. According to all of the beat reporters, Marian Gaborik will return to the lineup. Without him the team treaded water, breaking even at 6-6, which would be almost acceptable but when you look at the fact that the Gaborik-less Blueshirts went 2-5 at the Garden during that span, it is inexcusable. Also returning to the lineup will be Hobey Gilroy, who will take Michal Rozsival's spot. After Rozy's awful performance sank the team on Tuesday, it came to light that he had been dealing with a long term shoulder injury. What a coincidence!
Where They Are: Buffalo is one of the worst teams in the NHL thanks to their home record, a horrid 0-6-1. On the road, however, they are 5-3-1. They have a two game win streak (both shootout victories) and will be playing on the back end of a back-to-back. The Sabres beat the Devils on Wednesday night in a ridiculous shootout that saw Ilya Kovalchuk blow a breakaway late in the third period and then have a shameful shootout attempt.
Who To Watch For: The goal scorers in that one are always dangerous when they face the Rangers - Jason Pominville, Derek Roy, Tyler Myers and Tyler Ennis. Roy is red hot with 17 points in 16 games; he had a regulation goal and an assist, along with an effortless shootout goal. Myers was horrible in his game against the Blueshirts but against the Devils he played just over 22 minutes, had a goal and two assists on three shots while going +3. Perfect timing (ugh). Thomas Vanek is pointless in his last six games but he scored a nice goal in the shootout so that may boost his confidence and get things started for him. Pat Kaleta is sure to cause some chaos and attempt to injure a few Blueshirts while grinders Paul Gaustad, Mike Grier and Rob Niedermayer are always tough against the Rangers.
What To Watch For: Buffalo's grinders making life difficult for MDZ and Gilroy. Myers and Leopold to spend a lot of attention on Gaborik. Faceoffs: the Rangers suck in the circle but the Sabres weren't particularly good themselves at the Rock, losing 38 of 60. Whoever plays goal for Buffalo: Enroth looked jumpy, stopping 28 of 32 shots and two of three New Jersey shootout attempts. Patrick Lalime had been held out of the game because of abdominal pain and Ryan Miller has been rehabbing a knee injury. Enroth could want to prove himself against Lundqvist, Lalime has a good career record vs. the Rangers and Miller is Miller. The Sabres power play: they have just one goal with the man advantage over their past six games, going 1-22 in that span. A large part of that is due to bobblehead Tim Connelly attempting to quarterback the unit and not doing particularly well, while Vanek's cold streak hasn't helped.
What We'll (Hopefully) See: More of Tuesday's first period, less of Tuesday's third. Gaborik to ignite Frolov and turn him into an acceptable hockey player. The Rangers to come up with something that isn't dump and chase, since they dump better than they chase. Derek Stepan to find the magic that gave him a hat trick in the first game against Buffalo. Ryan Callahan to snap his three game pointless streak (where he has also gone -1 in each of the three). Brandon Dubinsky to do something better with his hands then to fight a clown like Mike Green for no reason. Derek Boogaard to keep Kaleta in line and keep his scoring streak alive.
Also Check Out: Sabres Edge, Shots off the Crossbar and SBN's Die By The Blade.