Rangers Look To Make It Two In A Row Against The Sabres

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The New York Rangers are looking to continue their climb upwards as they take on the Buffalo Sabres at home. The last matchup between these two teams went into overtime, as J.T. Miller scored the winner on the power play to defeat Buffalo in the 2018 Bridgestone Winter Classic. The Blueshirts are fresh off a phenomenal 5-1 win against the Flyers on Tuesday night. That win puts the Rangers at 51 points, just enough to sit in the first wild-card spot in the Metropolitan division. The Sabres are entering tonight’s contest winners of their previous contest versus Columbus, topping them 3-1, last Thursday. Buffalo is currently last in the Atlantic division with 31 points.

Key to Victory

Consistent Team Effort = Wins – Tuesday’s win versus the Flyers showed everyone that the Rangers are still open for business. What was considered a dark last few games, the Rangers effort and compete level was questioned, as they made egregious mistakes in their losses to Vegas, the Islanders and, Penguins. All that seemed to go out the window Tuesday, as they kept a tight, solid defensive effort in front of Henrik Lundqvist, as well as making smart plays to generate offense. In a time where every game is a must win, the Rangers came through and kept themselves from sinking further into the abyss. Tonight, the Rangers will need the same laser sharp focus against Buffalo. Although they are last in their division, the Sabres are not a team to take lightly. Players like Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart, and Evander Kane can make a difference. The Blueshirts will need that same all-around effort tonight as they play their last home game of the month before an important West Coast road trip.

Practice Report

Marc Staal is day to day with a strained hip flexor injury. Alain Vigneault claims Staal’s injury won’t be long, and anticipates that he will be ready for the trip out West. Steve Kampfer will play in his place.

“I don’t expect it to be long,” Vigneault said, who added that Steve Kampfer will rejoin the lineup for Thursday and that the team’s defensive pairs were still be worked on. Matt Calamia/NY Rangers.com

Kevin Hayes is close to returning but will be out of the lineup tonight versus Buffalo. Hayes was injured in the game versus the Islanders with a contusion.

Like Staal, Vigneault said forward Kevin Hayes (contusion) is day-to-day. Vigneault said Hayes worked out off the ice on Wednesday and is “coming along” and is “real close to skating.”

After Thursday, the Rangers head west to face the Avalanche in Colorado before three games in California, beginning Sunday in Los Angeles. Vigneault said a recall would be needed if both – especially Staal – were not close to returning to the lineup.

“I would think by Friday I’m going to know if Marc is good,” he said. “Right now, we’ve got 12 healthy forwards and six healthy D. Hartford is close by for tomorrow, so if we need something at the last minute, it shouldn’t be an issue. By Friday, we’ll practice and know if both Kevin and Marc are practicing or close to. [If they’re] close to [but] not quite there, we might have to call somebody up. If they’re close we’ll play it day-by-day.”  Matt Calamia/NY Rangers.com

Players To Watch
New York Rangers

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Rick Nash – Simply put, the Rangers need Rick Nash to produce. Although he’s shown strong poise with the puck in many games this year, he could not find the back of the net. That changed Tuesday night as Nash netted two goals in a rout of the Philadelphia Flyers. After the Flyers took a quick lead, Nash tied it 4:24 later with his tenth goal of the season and his first since December 15. New linemate Pavel Buchnevich set up Nash for the breakaway goal with a stretch pass between two Flyers defensemen and promptly snapped it with a strong shot past Brian Elliot. He would add another goal on a 2v1 with 2:32 remaining in the second period of that game to extend the lead to 5-1. Nash was active, strong on the puck and solid in his own zone. This is the Nash the Rangers will need to show up on the ice tonight against the Sabres

Buffalo Sabres

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Kyle Okposo – In a season that has gone wrong for Buffalo, Kyle Okposo seems like a bright spot for the Sabres. Night after night, Kyle Okposo is in the thick of things for Buffalo, and that was evident in their win over Columbus last Thursday. Okposo tallied an assist and scored the game winning goal by sweeping a loose puck into an unattended net 7:18 into the third period past Sergei Bobrovsky. Although he only has 24 points on the season, Okposo is a strong, two-way forward who can score when needed. Rangers fans are familiar with this notion, due to his many seasons on Long Island. Look for him to try and make an impact, as Buffalo tries their hardest to creep out of the cellar.

Puck drops at 730!

LETS GO RANGERS!!