Rangers aim for a win against Sabres before Christmas Break

NHL: Buffalo Sabres at New York Rangers
Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers schedule is packed with back-to-back games, particularly over weekends. This pre-holiday weekend is no exception, with the Blueshirts having played Friday night against the recently improved Edmonton Oilers and tonight taking on the somewhat struggling Buffalo Sabres.

Last night’s contest was the first time New York faced former Hartford Wolf Pack head coach Kris Knoblauch, brought in by Edmonton November 12th as head coach to replace the fired Jay Woodcroft. Yet, despite the Rangers playing a fast-paced game against Knoblauch’s Oilers the first two periods, the Blueshirts got sloppy and imploded, giving up four goals in the final frame to lose 4-3.

Tonight’s opponent, the Sabres, started the season strong and handed the Rangers one of their four home losses on November 27th; but Buffalo hasn’t been as successful of late and comes into Madison Square Garden looking to make up ground in an Atlantic Division in which they’re slowly sinking to the bottom. Interestingly, Buffalo beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 9-3 in their last game, Thursday night — and they’re probably extra motivated today to try to take down the Metro Division’s leading team in the Blueshirts.

“Not our best game from the start,” captain Jacob Trouba stated. “We expect to play a better game for a full 60 minutes… Another crack at it [Saturday] before the break and hopefully we come away with two points.”

Here’s today’s game and broadcast info:

New York Rangers (22-8-1) vs Buffalo Sabres (14-17-3)
Date/Time: December 23, 2023 @ 7:30 PM ET
Arena: Madison Square Garden
TV: MSG
Radio: ESPN 1050 AM

Note: Subject to change, updated for each game

New York Rangers projected lineup

NHL: Buffalo Sabres at New York Rangers
Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

No changes are expected in the Rangers lineup except Igor Shesterkin starting in net instead of Jonathan Quick, who started last night’s game against the Oilers. Coming off impressive wins over the Bruins and Maple Leafs, Igor Shesterkin hopes to continue his recent hot streak.

Kreider – Zibanejad – Wheeler
Panarin – Trocheck– Lafreniere
Cuylle – Bonino – Brodzinski
Vesey – Goodrow – Pitlick

Lindgren – Fox
Miller – Trouba
Gustafsson – Schneider

Shesterkin
Quick

Note: Head coach Peter Laviolette will address the media at 5:10 p.m. ET. Check back here for any updates.

New York Rangers vs. Buffalo Sabres

Two days after the Sabres were booed off the ice and fans chanted for head coach Don Granato’s firing following a 9-4 loss to Columbus, Buffalo routed the Toronto Maple Leafs at home, 9-3, Thursday night.

“We took last game really personally, I think, on a bunch of different levels,” said Alex Tuch of the Sabres, who had four assists. “I thought we owed one to ourselves, we owed one to the coaching staff.”

Jeff Skinner scored twice, including the go-ahead goal, and added an assist, in his first game back after missing three with an upper-body injury. Tage Thompson also had a goal and two assists and captain Kyle Okposo scored twice in the Sabres’ best offensive outing since a 9-4 win against Columbus on Dec. 7, 2022.

Meanwhile, for the Rangers on Friday night, Jonathan Quick looked like the vintage, Stanley Cup winning goaltender of the past through the first two periods, and the team in front of him didn’t allow the Oilers many chances, either. A nifty, once in a lifetime blind back pass between the legs from Mika Zibanejad to Blake Wheeler allowed the Rangers to score the sole goal in the game through the first two periods.

But in the third period, it all collapsed for the Blueshirts — and Quick fell victim to his first regulation loss of the season. Said head coach Peter Laviolette after the game, “Well, you could see it — I mean you could see it, you could feel it — it was just low juice and you need more than that — you gotta have more than that. So it wasn’t there tonight and you just try and stop it and switch it; and they come out, they score a couple — you just try and pause the game and send it in a different direction — but it didn’t work.”

While the Rangers look to reassert their dominance in the East tonight, be prepared for Buffalo to try and repeat their victory from November against the Blueshirts. A very defensively oriented game from the home team would therefore not come as a surprise, at all.

Deborah Seymour grew up in New York City and studied in the City University of New York system for... More about Deborah Seymour