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.
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).
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.
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.
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?