New York Rangers take on Buffalo Sabres in regular season opener

NHL: New York Rangers at Buffalo Sabres
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers will head upstate to take on the Buffalo Sabres in their first game of the 2023-2024 regular season on Thursday. It’s been a long time coming for Rangers’ players and fans alike. After a heartbreaking game seven defeat in the first round of last year’s playoffs, followed by a lengthy offseason and a lackluster preseason, the time has finally come to start fresh in this year’s quest for the Stanley Cup.

The Rangers will look to get off to a good start in the franchise’s 98th season. Head coach Peter Laviolette confirmed that the Blueshirts are fully healthy. This means that both Filip Chytil and Alexis Lafreniere are ready to play at full strength after dealing with preseason injuries.

“I’m really happy with the way that camp went in regard to what we were able to put in play, how hard the guys worked in practice,” Laviolette explained. “We’re excited to get going and take on Buffalo.”

The Buffalo Sabres come into this season looking to take their next step in becoming a playoff team. Last year they finished with 91 points, good enough for 5th in the Atlantic Division, but short of clinching a playoff spot. Players like Tage Thompson and newly extended Rasmus Dahlin are looking to improve upon their impressive seasons and catapult the Sabres to their first playoff berth since 2011.

Here’s tonight’s game and broadcast info:

  • Date/Time: October 12, 2023 @ 7:00 PM ET
  • Arena: KeyBank Center
  • Radio: ESPN 98.7 FM

Note: Subject to change, updated for each game

Related: 5 Bold New York Rangers Predictions

New York Rangers vs Buffalo Sabres

new york rangers
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Peter Laviolette will be behind the bench for his first official game as the Rangers head coach. He holds a 11-6-2 record in season openers (.632%). It will also mark the first games for Rangers’ newcomers Blake Wheeler, Erik Gustafsson, Nick Bonino, and Tyler Pitlick, who are all expected to be in the lineup. It will be Jonathan Quick’s first game as well, serving as the backup to Igor Shesterkin.

The Rangers have had quite a bit of success against the Sabres in recent years. They come into tonight’s contest on a 13 game point streak (10-0-3) and are 13-2-3 in the last 18 meetings against Buffalo. They will look to continue that streak tonight when the puck drops at KeyBank Center.

The Sabres will come out with a different agenda tonight. They are a young and highly skilled team who will use their size and speed in an attempt to overpower the Rangers. In addition to Thompson and Dahlin, Alex Tuch, Dylan Cozens, and Owen Power will all look to make an impact. In goal, rookie Devon Levi will aim to continue his impressive play in his young career. He played well against the Rangers last season, winning both of his games against the Blueshirts with a .934 save percentage and a 1.89 goals against average.

Expect Buffalo to play with speed and intensity, using the energy from their fans in the home opener to fuel them.

The Rangers finished tied for second in the league in road points last year (56) and tied for fifth in road victories (24). They will look to continue their fine play on the road under the new systems of coach Laviolette.

After some lineup shuffling in camp due to the health of Alexis Lafreniere, it seems as though the 22 year-old forward will end up getting his chance on the second line right wing spot with Artemi Panarin and Filip Chytil. Lafreniere has been under heavy criticism after a very underwhelming preseason.

That being said, Laviolette was impressed with his recent play. “I thought he’s looked really good in the last two practices. It’s nice to have him back and healthy going into the game. I’m looking forward to watching him play tomorrow night,” he explained on Wednesday. “I think there were a lot of questions about him, but this is also a team sport.”

Jacob Trouba is entering his second season as the Ranger’s captain. He, along with the rest of the team, is ready to start fresh after the disappointment of last year. “It’s been a long time coming for pretty much everyone in this room, getting over last year and getting ready for the start of this year and looking forward to this day,” said the veteran defenseman.

“It’s an up and coming exciting team,” Trouba went on to say about their first opponent. “(Buffalo) played well last year. It’s always a fun place to play, especially opening on the road. It’s always kind of fun to play other teams’ home openers too. The energy and the atmosphere are always great.”

The Rangers will look to spoil the home opener for the Buffalo Sabres. Expect the Blueshirts to open with a top line of Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad, and Kaapo Kakko. The top pairing on defense will once again be Ryan Lindgren and Adam Fox. In goal, none other than Igor Shesterkin, who is looking to earn his 100th career victory.

Check back in for updates leading up to puck drop. The Rangers will have morning skate at 11:30 AM ET in Buffalo.

Dane Walsh is a life-long fan of the New York Rangers. Growing up in the tri-state area, Dane has... More about Dane Walsh

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