New York Hockey: Buffalo Sabres

'Disgusted' Torts rips Rangers after loss

March, 13, 2013
3/13/13
11:52
AM ET


At least John Tortorella is never shy with his opinion.

The fiery Rangers coach let his team have it Tuesday night after they lost to Buffalo 3-1, ripping his club for surrendering a game to a struggling Sabres squad that entered the match 3-5-2 in their previous 10 games.

“We suck, and we suck at a time we can’t suck,” Tortorella told reporters in Buffalo. “So we have to get it straightened out. I don’t know what else to tell you.”

Actually, he had plenty else to say, including calling out his team’s top performers, who failed to build on Derek Stepan’s shorthanded goal in the second period, which gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead.

And this wasn’t all bluster from Tortorella, who backed up his anger by demoting Marian Gaborik to the third line (again) and instead used bruiser Micheal Haley on the team’s second line.

“I couldn’t be more disgusted and disappointed with the way our top guys played, with the way we handled ourselves through it,” Tortorella said. “That team was ripe to be beaten and we simply did not play the way we’re supposed to play.”

Tortorella seemed enraged that he had to answer for his team, urging the media to direct their questions at the players responsible for the team’s dispiriting loss.

“Did you ask them? Did you ask them any questions?” Tortorella said. “I don’t know why I always have to answer all these questions. You should ask them occasionally about what happened.”

Now, Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards and Rick Nash may not have shown much on the ice, but all three stuck around to field questions after the game and took responsibility for the team’s inadequacy.

“I have to play better,” Gaborik said. “I need to be more consistent. The goals haven’t been going [in] for me, so I have to keep working hard.”

At first blush, Gaborik’s numbers don’t appear that bad. He is, after all, second on the team in both goals (8) and scoring (17) behind Nash. But the streaky sniper has been inconsistent and sometimes completely invisible for the Rangers.

The three-time 40-goal scorer has scored only once in the last 12 games and in only five games total of the Rangers 25 contests.

Think those trade rumors are going to stop now?

Tortorella didn’t just blast his own players. He was far from diplomatic about the Sabres after the game, despite the fact they were missing their starting goaltender, Ryan Miller, who was sidelined with a sinus infection.

“I don’t think the Sabres were the hungrier team, I thought we stunk,” Tortorella said. “I’m not going to give Buffalo any credit. I will give their third line credit, they outplayed our top players and that can’t happen.”

All this drama sets the stage for a captivating matchup Thursday when the Rangers travel to Winnipeg for an important road game against the Jets.

With a middling 13-10-2 record, the Rangers retain the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 28 points, but their clutch on 8th place will be threatened as the Jets look to leapfrog New York in the standings.

The Jets also have 28 points; they enter the match at home with a 6-3-1 record in the past 10 games.

Tortorella said what he needed to say. Now it’s up to his players to respond.

W2W4: Rangers vs. Sabres

March, 12, 2013
3/12/13
10:40
AM ET
At a glance: With five wins in their past six games, the Rangers take on the struggling Sabres in Buffalo on Tuesday night while looking to leapfrog the Devils in the Eastern Conference standings. Coming off a 3-2 loss to the Flyers on Sunday, the Sabres are in 14th place after posting an abysmal 3-5-2 record in their past 10 games, and they won't even have starting goaltender Ryan Miller in net. According to multiple reports, Miller is out with a sinus infection and will back up Jhonas Enroth.

Bad blood: Tuesday marks the first meeting between the two clubs since Buffalo’s Patrick Kaleta injured Rangers veteran center Brad Richards with a nasty hit that earned the Sabres forward a five-game suspension. After the game, Richards, his teammates and Rangers coach John Tortorella blasted the hit and the player as “dirty.” Kaleta is eligible to return Sunday against the Capitals.

Boyle bounces back: After sitting out Friday’s 3-2 loss to the Senators as a healthy scratch, Brian Boyle rebounded with a nice performance Sunday in D.C. Boyle tallied his first goal of the season as the Rangers knocked off the Capitals 4-1 in the first of a four-game road trip.

Not just yet: After missing the first 26 games of the season with a hip injury, the Sabres' Ville Leino appeared ready to play his first game of the season against the Rangers, although indications from the Sabres' morning skate are that he will have to wait at least one more game. The 29-year-old Leino, who injured his hip before the season began, is looking to improve on an underwhelming 2011-12 season, when he finished with only eight goals and 25 points after inking a monster six-year, $27 million deal. Meanwhile, Tyler Ennis will also miss Tuesday's game. Ennis is “day-to-day” after being rocked by a hit from Wayne Simmonds on Sunday, although Sabres coach Ron Rolston said Ennis did not suffer a concussion.

Back on track: Since sitting out for two games while recovering from the effects of Kaleta’s suspension-earning hit, Richards has scored two goals in as many games. In his first game back, the 32-year-old alternate captain snapped a 15-game goal drought. He added his fourth of the season on Sunday.

Still streaking: Although his five-game goal streak was halted in Sunday’s win, Rick Nash has registered at least a point in each of his past 10 games played. He has 16 points (six goals, 10 assists) in that span and a whopping 11 points in the six games since he has returned from an undisclosed injury (believed to be a concussion) that sidelined him for four games last month.

NHL Weekly Chat Wrap

March, 11, 2013
3/11/13
4:01
PM ET
Which team is looking good? What players are on the move as the trade deadline approaches? And what happens now that the Chicago Blackhawks historic streak has finally come to an end. ESPNNewYork.com's Katie Strang answers those questions and more in this week's NHL Live Chat.

Check it out here

Hamrlik: NYR are a 'Stanley Cup contender'

March, 7, 2013
3/07/13
1:40
PM ET
After struggling to crack the lineup with the Washington Capitals under new coach Adam Oates, veteran defenseman Roman Hamrlik is embracing his new opportunity with the New York Rangers.

The Rangers claimed the 38-year-old veteran off waivers from Washington Wednesday, a move that was discussed even before Marc Staal suffered a gruesome eye injury Tuesday night.

"Happy, excited, anxious to play," said Hamrlik about learning he'd be joining the Rangers. "This is a really good team, one of the best goaltending [teams] in league. They have some great defensemen who can skate and move the puck, lots of speed up front. I think this team is a Stanley Cup contender."

Hamrlik said he did not want to dwell on the past, but admitted he was frustrated by his limited role with the Caps this season. Before being waived, Hamrlik played in only four games under Oates.

"There's been lots of changes over the summer with the coaching staff in Washington. I wish ... they would've could'e given me a little more of a chance to play hockey but it's in the past and I'm looking more ahead," Hamrlik said. "It is what it is."

Should Hamrlik play tonight he'll be thrown right into the midst of a division rivalry that he knows all about. Hamrlik spent four years with the Islanders from 2000-2004 and said he had lots of good memories about the Isles-Rangers match-ups.

"It's huge," Hamrlik said. "Always the guys are pumped up and the excitement ... the fans really enjoy it. It should be fun."

" " "
Brad Richards will miss his second straight game Thursday night as he recovers from a nasty hit Sunday delivered by Buffalo's Patrick Kaleta. Kaleta received a five-game suspension for the play, which sent Richards face-first into the boards and writhing in pain on the ice.

How did he feel about the suspension?

"I don't know what's appropriate, I just hope someone doesn't have to have a broken neck and get carried off by a stretcher for that to sink in, that that's jut a crazy play," Richards said.

After the hit, Richards and his teammates blasted Kaleta for what they felt was a dirty play.

"We learned that in Pee Wee. You see someone's numbers and you just don't do that," Richards said. "Hopefully, something worse doesn't have to happen [so] we have to make a point out of it."

Richards said he is "feeling better" each day but that he is being careful not to set himself back until he is fully ready to return.

W2W4: Islanders vs. Rangers

March, 7, 2013
3/07/13
12:47
PM ET
At a glance: The Islanders and Rangers enter Thursday's 7 p.m. match at Nassau Coliseum on winning streaks. The Rangers matched a season-high three-game skein with a 4-2 win over the Flyers on Tuesday, while the Islanders are coming off a 6-3 win over Montreal, their second straight victory. Only two points separate the eighth-place Rangers and 10th-place Islanders in the Eastern Conference standings. The Isles look to climb back into the playoff picture in their sixth game of a seven-game homestand. Reigning Vezina Trophy winner Henrik Lundqvist will be in goal for the Rangers; Evgeni Nabokov will get the start for the Isles.

Nice streak for Nash: Since returning from an undisclosed injury (believed to be a concussion), Rick Nash enters the tilt against the Islanders on a three-game goal-scoring streak. The 6-foot-4, 213-pound winger has six points (four goals and two assists) since he has returned, and the Rangers have reaped the benefits. The Blueshirts have not lost since his return to the lineup.

Tavares is tops: Islanders star center John Tavares currently ranks third in the league with 14 goals behind leader Steven Stamkos (17) and Jeff Carter (15). Tavares notched a goal and an assist in Tuesday’s win over the Habs, but the Rangers hope to hold him off the score sheet Thursday night. Why? The Islanders are 1-7-1 when Tavares is held without a point.

Staal out: Although doctors expect Marc Staal to make a full recovery after he was struck in the eye with a puck Tuesday night, he is out indefinitely. The prognosis was surprisingly optimistic, given the grisly nature of Staal’s injury. The 26-year-old defenseman will not be required to undergo surgery and is not expected to be in danger of any permanent loss of vision.

New guy in town: The Rangers claimed journeyman defenseman Roman Hamrlik off waivers from Washington on Wednesday. The 38-year-old veteran, a consistent scratch for the Capitals this season, skated Thursday morning and will make his Rangers debut against his former team. Hamrlik played four seasons with the Islanders from 2000 to 2004.

Toughen up: Opting for some snarl against the team’s division rivals, Isles coach Jack Capuano inserted Eric Boulton into the lineup in place of David Ullstrom. On the other side of the ice will be tough guy and former Islander Micheal Haley, who was recalled from the AHL on Tuesday.

Richards out: Brad Richards will miss his second straight game while recovering from the residual effects of a nasty hit sustained Sunday. Richards is still experiencing soreness after being rammed headfirst into the boards by Buffalo’s Patrick Kaleta. Kaleta earned a five-game suspension on the play.

W2W4: Rangers vs. Flyers

March, 5, 2013
3/05/13
1:16
PM ET
At a glance: Separated by one point and one spot in the Eastern Conference standings, the eight-place Flyers and ninth-place Rangers square off Tuesday night (7:30 ET) at Madison Square Garden in the division rivals’ third meeting of the season. The Rangers conclude a four-game home stand against their division rivals following an important win over the Sabres on Sunday. The Blueshirts rallied after a vicious hit from Buffalo’s Patrick Kaleta injured veteran center Brad Richards in the third period and went on to edge Buffalo 3-2 in the shootout. Meanwhile, the Flyers have won five of their past seven games.

Getting streaky: Both teams are aiming to string together three straight wins Tuesday. That would match the longest streak of the season for the Rangers. The Flyers have yet to collect three straight wins this year.

Richards to return? Although Richards skated with the team Tuesday morning after missing Monday’s practice, he didn’t stay on the ice for long, making his status doubtful. The Rangers also recalled bruiser Micheal Haley from the AHL, a good indication that Richards will not play.

Big boost: Since returning to the lineup Thursday, Rick Nash has provided the Rangers’ offense a needed spark. The dynamic winger has contributed two goals and two assists after being sidelined four games with an undisclosed injury (believed to be a concussion).

Tough times: The Flyers kick off a trying week with their road game at the Garden. Following Tuesday’s match, the Flyers face two of the toughest teams in the East: Pittsburgh in Philly on Thursday and Boston on the road Saturday.

Kaleta suspended: The Rangers received some satisfaction Monday when Kaleta was hit with a five-game suspension for his hit on Richards. Kaleta will pay a hefty sum as a repeat offender, forfeiting $76,219.25 in salary.

Power surge: An anemic Rangers power play has shown signs of life lately. The team cashed in on two of four man-up opportunities on Sunday against the Sabres; both goals were scored during the five-minute major issued to Kaleta following his hit.

Missing in action: The Flyers will be without forwards Harry Zolnierczyk (suspension) and Matt Read (rib injury) and defenseman Andrej Meszaros (shoulder). The Rangers will be without rugged fourth-liner (and former Flyer) Arron Asham (back).

Richards back on ice

March, 5, 2013
3/05/13
10:47
AM ET
After missing practice Monday while recovering from a nasty suspension-earning hit from Buffalo's Patrick Kaleta on Sunday, Brad Richards returned to the ice with the Rangers for the team's morning skate.

Richards did not stay on the ice long, however, so it remains unclear as to whether he will play Tuesday against the Flyers when the Rangers wrap up a four-game homestand.

Richards was visibly shaken up after sustaining the hit in the third period of Sunday's 3-2 shootout win over the Sabres. But the veteran center returned to the game after Kaleta was tossed with a game misconduct.

On Monday, Kaleta was hit with a five-game ban after a hearing with the NHL's department of player safety.

Richards misses practice Monday

March, 4, 2013
3/04/13
5:35
PM ET
Brad Richards, Patrick Kaleta Bruce Bennett/Getty ImagesHere's a look at the aftermath of Kaleta's hit on Richards.
In what comes as no shock to anyone who saw Sunday's game, Brad Richards did not practice with the Rangers on Monday. Considering the amount of pain he appeared to still be experiencing after the game -- he was essentially wincing through his answers to questions -- Richards is due a maintenance day, at the very least.

The veteran center said he hit both his head and his neck when he was sent headfirst into the boards by the Sabres' Patrick Kaleta in the third period of the Rangers' 3-2 shootout win. After the game he said he considered himself "very fortunate" to have been able to return to the game.

Coach John Tortorella, who called Kaleta's hit "disgusting" and "ridiculous" after the game, said he does not have any long-term concerns regarding Richards' health. The 32-year-old alternate captain missed a significant amount of time due to a concussion while with the Dallas Stars back in 2011.

"He'll be fine," Tortorella said.

Meanwhile, Kaleta was slated to have a phone hearing with the NHL's Department of Player Safety at 3 p.m. on Monday. Because it is a phone hearing, the maximum suspension Kaleta could get is five games. Any ban of six games or more requires an in-person hearing.

Kaleta, who declined to speak with reporters following Sunday's game, spoke to local reporters in Buffalo, N.Y., on Monday and defended his actions.

"I just play hard, and I was on the penalty kill trying to do my job," Kaleta said, according to the Buffalo News' John Vogl.

Kaleta also told the Buffalo News that he felt like a "bag of garbage," although it was not for his hit on Richards, but rather that he put his team in a short-handed situation.

When asked if he cared to offer a message to Richards, Kaleta declined. "I'm good for now," he said.

It is not immediately clear when the NHL's disciplinary team will issue a decision, but the crew will surely take into account that Kaleta is a repeat offender.

3 p.m. hearing for Kaleta

March, 4, 2013
3/04/13
10:10
AM ET
Buffalo's Patrick Kaleta will have a phone hearing at 3 p.m. Monday with the NHL's Department of Player Safety over his hit Sunday night on Brad Richards, a source confirmed to ESPNNewYork.com.

Kaleta shoved Richards into the boards face-first at 3:28 of the third period of the Sabres 3-2 shootout loss to the Rangers. Richards went sprawling into the boards, hitting his head and neck before falling to the ice in obvious distress. Kaleta earned a checking from behind major penalty and a game misconduct for the play.

Although Richards was down on the ice for several minutes being looked after by the Rangers' head medical trainer, he skated off on his own and returned to the game in the third period.

After the game Richards, his teammates and coach John Tortorella blasted both the player and his actions.

Tortorella called it "disgusting" while Richards questioned Kaleta's place in the game.

"I don't know what game he plays, actually," Richards said, still grimacing in pain after the game. "He doesn't play hockey to begin with. Same guy, all the time."

Kaleta, a repeat offender with prior suspensions, cannot be suspended for more than five games. A player is given the right to an in-person hearing if the league is considering a ban of six games or more

Rangers 'disgusted' over Kaleta hit

March, 4, 2013
3/04/13
1:07
AM ET
"Disgusting," "ridiculous," "cheap," "dirty" -- these were among the adjectives the Rangers used to describe the hit from Patrick Kaleta that sent alternate captain Brad Richards head-first into the boards and down to the ice in obvious pain during the third period of the team's 3-2 shootout win over the Sabres on Sunday night at Madison Square Garden.

Suffice it to say they were not happy with Kaleta, a repeat offender who is likely to face supplemental discipline for his actions. To read more about what the Rangers had to say about the play that served as the turning point of the game, click here.

W2W4: Rangers vs. Sabres

March, 3, 2013
3/03/13
10:40
AM ET
At a glance: The Rangers host the Buffalo Sabres at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night (7:30 ET) in the clubs' first of three meetings this season. The Rangers and Sabres are 10th and 12th, respectively, in the Eastern Conference standings, but both clubs enter Sunday's match coming off big wins.

Getting streaky: Rick Nash said it Thursday after returning from injury: The Rangers need to get streaky. With their star forward back in the lineup against the Lightning, New York snapped a four-game losing skid. Now they look to string together some wins. Speaking of streaks, the Sabres are riding a season-high three-game winning streak after edging the Devils in a shootout Saturday night.

Nash is back: Nash's return provided a big boost for the Rangers on offense. Nash finished Thursday's 4-1 win over the Lightning with a goal, an assist and a game-high 12 shots on goal. His presence also sparked linemates Carl Hagelin and Brad Richards. Hagelin notched a goal while Richards went 17-for-20 from the faceoff circle. And though the latter is still mired in a 14-game goal drought, coach John Tortorella thought Richards showed signs of turning the corner, calling the team's most recent win one of his better games of the year.

Missing in action: Sabres leading scorer Thomas Vanek sat out Saturday's game in New Jersey because of an upper-body injury, although it appears possible he could be available to play Sunday against the Rangers. Replacing Vanek in the lineup against the Devils was AHL call-up Brian Flynn, who made his NHL debut.

Thanks, Coach: For the first time in 16 years, the Rangers will see a different face behind the Sabres' bench. After a disappointing start led to longtime coach Lindy Ruff's dismissal, Ron Rolston has taken over as interim coach. Rangers rookie J.T. Miller knows plenty about Rolston, who coached him on the United States' under-18 team.

"He's one of the big influences to who I am today. He taught me how to play hockey; just all the ins and outs and how to be professional," Miller told ESPNNewYork.com's Matt Ehalt. "Even away from the rink, he taught me things I thought I'd never understand and it's really nice to see he's at the professional level because he deserves it and he's a great coach and very professional at what he does, and it'll be great to play against him."

W2W4: Rangers vs. Sabres

March, 23, 2012
3/23/12
2:28
PM ET
At a glance: Concluding a seven-game homestand, the Rangers go for the series sweep against the Buffalo Sabres Friday at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers have rattled off two straight wins this week at MSG and hope to record their third before departing on a three-game road trip with stops in Toronto, Minnesota and Winnipeg.

Still in first: With less than ten games remaining in the regular season, the race for the top spot in the East is coming down to the wire. With a win tonight, the Rangers have a chance to restore a three-point lead on the idle Penguins, who sit only one point behind the Blueshirts following Thursday’s playoff-clinching win over Nashville. And while the Rangers have been out in front for the much of the season, the Penguins are making an impressive late push with 13 wins in their last 14 games.

Fighting for a spot: Speaking of playoff implications, the Sabres are clinging onto their post-season hopes while trailing he 8th-place Capitals by only a point. Buffalo, 11-2-3 since February 19, enters Friday’s match with a two-game winning streak and could leap-frog Washington should the Capitals lose to Winnipeg tonight.

Fed-Ex’ed: Limited to one goal and one assist in the last 16 games, Ruslan Fedotenko will be scratched for the second straight game. The veteran winger has struggled recently, but coach John Tortorella indicated he will get his chance to return to the lineup soon. Tortorella, who coached Fedotenko as a member of his 2004 Stanley Cup-winning team in Tampa, said he still “has a tremendous amount of faith,” in him.

Strength in net: Buffalo’s recent tear has been led by elite goaltender Ryan Miller, who boasts a gaudy .939 save percentage during his team’s recent five-week run. Miller told ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun that he thinks the pre-season label of Buffalo as a “Cup Contender” hurt the team, but that they have sinced rebounded to become “a team that can achieve.”

Feeling good: Saturday may be the last game off Henrik Lundqvist (34-15-5, .934 save %, 1.87 GAA) receives before the playoffs begin, but fatigue does not seem to be a factor for the Vezina Trophy front-runner. Lundqvist’s starts have been carefully minded this year – he’ll make his 55th tonight – and, as he readily admitted after the team’s morning skate, “winning helps.” So does the excitement in gearing up for the playoffs: “This time of year you never really feel tired.”

Rapid Reaction: Rangers 3, Sabres 2 (OT)

February, 25, 2012
2/25/12
9:40
PM ET
Recap | Box score | Photos

What it means: Sabres winger Drew Stafford tallied twice for Buffalo but New York rallied to tie the game and win it in overtime. Captain Ryan Callahan made a jaw-dropping move to scored the game-winner with 2:01 left to play in OT as the Rangers snapped Buffalo's three-game winning streak 3-2.

Erasing leads: The Rangers whittled two one-goal leads Saturday on markers from Swedish rookie Carl Hagelin and sniper Marian Gaborik. With the Rangers trailing 1-0, Hagelin tied the game at 7:38 of the second with his wraparound shot that banked in off goaltender Ryan Miller's stick. Gaborik then notched an equalizer at 5:32 of the third with his 29th goal of the season -- a deft backhander that beat Miller to knot the teams at 2.

Tough play: After whiffing on a shot, Rangers defenseman Marc Staal made every possible effort to stop Buffalo's Tyler Ennis on a rush at the other end, jumping, diving and poking at the puck -- but to no avail. Ennis corralled the puck to find Stafford in front of the net for a 1-0 Sabres lead at 13:29 of the first.

Game's first goal: With Stafford's first-period marker, the Rangers have given up the game's first goal in four of the last five games, including the last three straight.

Dropping the gloves: Plagued by a rash of slow starts, Brandon Prust did his best to liven things up after puck drop Saturday. The gritty winger went after Sabres tough guy Paul Gaustad following the opening faceoff and the two players dropped the gloves, much to the Madison Square Garden crowd's delight. The Rangers entered Saturday's contest with a 7-1-0 record when Prust is assessed a fighting major within the first two minutes of the game.

Nash-tastic: With less than two days remaining before Monday's trade deadline, the Rangers remain front-runner for Columbus Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash. Nash's agent, Joe Resnick, issued a statement on his client's situation, telling Canada's TSN that Nash's camp would like to see a deal made before the deadline. Resnick said Nash's approved list of teams to which he'd accept a trade will not change once the deadline passes.

Up Next: Rangers vs. Devils, 7 p.m. Monday.

Rapid Reaction: Rangers 1, Sabres 0 (SO)

February, 1, 2012
2/01/12
10:34
PM ET


Recap | Box score | Photos

What it means: Henrik Lundqvist showed no ill effects from the All-Star break, notching a shutout in his first game back in action. Meanwhile, Rochester native Ryan Callahan potted the game-winning goal in the shootout to give the New York Rangers two points and extend their lead over the idle Boston Bruins to three at the top of the Eastern Conference standings.

Anything you can do ... Lundqvist (33 saves) and Ryan Miller (29) matched each other blow-for-blow over the first three periods and the five-minute OT, including some sensational stops late in the third and in the extra session. It's the sort of showing the Sabres have missed from Miller this season, which ought to make it especially painful that they couldn't put the puck in the net. Of course, there was that hulking Swede in the way for the Blueshirts.

... I can do better: The only separation for either goalie came in the shootout, where Lundqvist absolutely stole a goal away from Brad Boyes when he dropped his glove to the ice to halt the shot on the goal line. After Marian Gaborik converted his attempt to start the shootout for the Rangers, a goal by Jason Pominville kept the Sabres alive, but Callahan ultimately ended the shootout in the fifth round to end a sensational duel between the netminders.

A little luck never hurt either: Lundqvist's best save of the night -- prior to the shootout -- may have come right at the end of the OT period, when he stopped a rising shot from Andrej Sekera with his shoulder and then Derek Roy couldn't pot the rebound, shooting it into the side netting as the clock ticked toward zero. It wasn't the only fortunate break for Lundqvist.

About three minutes into the third period, Boyes broke into the Rangers' zone on a 2-on-1 and wristed a missile over Lundqvist's glove-side shoulder. While Henrik missed it, the goal post did its job and deflected the puck away. Boyes missed another good opportunity midway through the third, chipping the puck just wide of what seemed to be a yawning Rangers goal, and again when Lundqvist stoned him on the doorstep during a Sabres power play with a minute to play. It's been that kind of year for Boyes, who has just 12 points in 37 games this season.

The hits just keep on coming: The Rangers may not have scored in the first two periods, but they certainly imposed their physical style of play, outhitting the Sabres 26-8 through the first 40 minutes. The fact that such a performance came away from MSG (where the hits always seem just a tad inflated), was even more impressive.

Um, ouch: Referee Kelly Sutherland caught a deflected shot right in the mug just 5:37 into the game and did not return. Sutherland kept his feet, but seemed a little off-balance as he left the ice. The remainder of the game was completed with just one ref and two linesmen.

Minutes men: Just a night after Dan Girardi played 33:46 in the shootout loss to the Devils (and Ryan McDonagh played 29:11) the defensemen again combined for 57-plus minutes of ice time. It's an impressive feat of endurance for both men, but it also demonstrates why some depth on the blue line could be a prudent pick up before the trade deadline. You don't want your top pair of defensemen running out of gas right before the playoffs start.

W2W4: Rangers vs. Sabres

February, 1, 2012
2/01/12
4:24
PM ET
As the Rangers look to put Tuesday's shootout-loss behind them, here are five things to watch for when the puck drops in Buffalo tonight.

Going streaking?
Part of the reason the New York Rangers find themselves atop the Eastern Conference standings after the all-star break is their ability to avoid a significant skid. The Rangers haven't lost back-to-back games since Dec. 15. In fact, the only time they've dropped more than two consecutive games was the first three contests of the season. Facing the dismally disappointing Buffalo Sabres (second in Eastern Conference payroll, second-to-last in the Eastern Conference standings) provides a good opportunity to get back in the win column and end the Sabres' first winning streak (2 games) since Nov. 11.

Back in the saddle again
Henrik Lundqvist will take to defending the twine after yielding the net to Martin Biron Tuesday. It figures to be quite the crease contrast for similarly talented netminders experiencing very different seasons. While Lundqvist looks to build on his Vezina-worthy campaign (22 wins, .937 save percentage, 1.87 GAA), Ryan Miller is merely seeking to return to respectability (.901 save percentage, 2.99 GAA).

Duby due?
While the Rangers trucked their way to an 8-3-1 record in January, they've yet to receive consistent production from Brandon Dubinsky who recorded just three points in the first month of 2012. At this point last season, Dubinsky had posted 38 points and was one of the driving forces behind the Rangers' production, this season he's managed just 21. With some time to shake off some nagging injuries, Buffalo could make a friendly foe in terms of a breakout game. Dubinsky has recorded 14 points in 15 career games against the Sabres.

No Vanek
The Sabres will be without talented goal-scorer Thomas Vanek, who left Tuesday night's win over Montreal with an "upper body injury." He's expected to miss a week of action. Buffalo has lost 230 man games to injury this season. Only Jason Pominville has dressed for every Sabres game in 2011-12 ... assuming he makes it to the arena okay Wednesday night.

Window shopping?
Mired at the bottom of the standings, it figures that the Sabres will be sellers at the upcoming trade deadline. While they're likely content with their core roster and don't seem likely to spring for any big names, the Rangers may be searching for some depth players to round out their postseason roster. Could Blueshirts GM Glen Sather be shopping when he watches the game tonight?

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