W2W4: Rangers at Sabres

December, 5, 2013
12/05/13
11:06
AM ET
At a glance: Well, we certainly know who will be between the pipes tonight for the Rangers against the Sabres. Fresh off inking a seven-year, $59.5 million contract extension Wednesday, goaltender Henrik Lundqvist will get his first start in almost a week when the Rangers visit Buffalo on Thursday night. The Rangers sit squarely at .500 (14-14-0) and are looking to pick up points against a beleaguered Buffalo squad that is dead last in the league with an atrocious 6-20-2 record and a mere 14 points.

Big bucks: When Lundqvist’s new deal kicks in, he will become the highest-paid goaltender in the NHL, with an annual salary averaging $8.5 million per season. The big news put to rest any doubt about Lundqvist’s stake in the team’s plans moving forward. Just two days prior to signing his new deal, Lundqvist was hammered with questions about his future with the organization after backup goaltender Cam Talbot was awarded his second straight start over the Vezina Trophy winner. The new contract, which will expire when Lundqvist is 39, puts things in perspective. So much for a goalie controversy.

Big test in Buffalo: Despite Wednesday’s news, a big day for both Lundqvist and the Rangers’ organization, it hasn’t been all rainbows and unicorns lately. On Tuesday, head coach Alain Vigneault called out his team, primarily the “core players," and demanded better. Vigneault seemed particularly critical of the Rangers’ leadership group and said they need to “put it together.”

Rock bottom: Though Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller has made a valiant effort in trying to carry his struggling squad, there is only so much he can do. If you thought the Rangers’ scoring woes were bad, Buffalo's are even worse. Last in the league with an anemic 1.61 goals per game, the Sabres have given Miller and new coach Ted Nolan very little to work with. The Sabres were blanked for the fifth time this season in a 1-0 loss to the Devils on Saturday.
Katie Strang covers the NHL for ESPN.com. She is a graduate of Michigan State University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
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