The New York Rangers will be trying to make it three wins in a row, when they play the Buffalo Sabres, who lost their last two games, when they meet Saturday night. The Sabres will be trying to stop a skid.
The last time the Rangers played the Sabres, it was anybody's game, and the Sabres won, 4-2. Now, the Rangers are expected to win and pick up two points.
The Rangers dropped a 3-1 home-ice decision to the Sabres on Oct. 15 and also were defeated in the shootout 2-1 in Buffalo on Jan. 9. The Sabres have won all three of their games against the Rangers so far this year, but New York is expected to win their final one.
Tonight’s match is the final one this year between these two teams, and it is also one of four straight for the Rangers against clubs that are currently not seeded in a top-eight playoff position within their conference.
The Rangers started the season going 10-2-1, but a recent slump saw the team drop 10 of 12 (2-7-3).
The Rangers were in sixth place in their division, but a Carolina Hurricanes win let them jump ahead of the Rangers. A win over Buffalo would put them ahead of the Hurricanes again.
Two points on Saturday plus two points on Sunday, against the Ottawa Senators, would tie them with the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers in 4th place.
The Rangers beat the Flyers the last time they met, 4-1.
The New York Rangers are now 37-26-8, with 82 points.
And the Buffalo Sabres are now 34-28-8, with 76 points.
What happened since the last time these two teams met? A great deal!
Sun. Feb. 22: Maple Leafs vs. Rangers 3 - 2 O
Mon. Feb. 23: Coach John Tortorella hired
Wed. Feb. 25: Rangers vs. Maple Leafs 1 - 2 O
Thu. Feb. 26: Panthers vs. Rangers 2 - 1 L
Sat. Feb. 28: Avalanche vs. Rangers 1 - 6 W
Tue. Mar. 3: Sean Avery rejoins Rangers
Wed. Mar. 4: Nik Antropov and Derek Morris join Rangers
Thu. Mar 5: Rangers vs. Islanders 4 - 2 W
Sun. Mar 8: Bruins vs. Rangers 3 - 4 W
Mon. Mar. 9: Rangers vs. Hurricanes 0 - 3 L
Thu. Mar. 12: Rangers vs. Predators 4 - 2 W
Sat. Mar. 14: Rangers vs. Flyers 2 - 4 L
Sun. Mar. 15: Flyers vs. Rangers 1 - 4 W
Tue. Mar. 17: Rangers vs. Canadiens 4 - 3 W
The Rangers had a great run, winning three in a row, losing, winning, losing, then winning two in a row. They beat Colorado, the other New York team, Boston, lost to Carolina, beat Nashville, split two games with Philly, and beat Montreal.
In other words, the Rangers started to win with Tortorella; the team turned their first win with their new coach into a three-game winning streak when Avery, Antropov, and Morris were added, and they've won five out of seven games since then.
They are 7-3 with Tortorella. They are 5-2 with Antropov, Avery, and Morris.
New York had ranked 29th out of the 30 teams in the NHL in goals per game (2.33) and has scored two or fewer 14 times in 19 games. In the last seven, they've outscored the opposition 22-18.
The Rangers were seen as underachievers before the turnaround. Since then, the new Rangers and old Rangers have come to life. They needed a spark, and they have been re-energized.
Here are some of the key changes:
His system emphasizes a high-pressure fore checking game with a relentless attack mentality.
Antropov has six points, with four goals and assists, in seven games with the Rangers.
Callahan has five points in the last four games.
The defenseman ended a long-scoring slump when Tortorella appeared. Redden played one of his best games of the season in the team's win over Montreal on Tuesday.
He has worked well on a line with Sean Avery and Callahan. In the last seven games, he had two goals and four assists. He leads the team in assists, with 52.
The Captain had one goal and four assists in the last seven games plus a lot of ice time. The captain and the coach appear to be hitting it off and working well together.
Avery is making a big difference and has been one of the Rangers' top players during the seven games since his return. He had four goals and one assist for five points.
He scored a goal-a-game for three games and was the first star of the game, when he scored two in the Rangers win last weekend.
"Not only did Avery score two power-play goals in the Rangers' 4-1 home win over Philadelphia on Sunday, he also honed his skills as hockey's most-hated man by getting the Flyers off their game while staying out of the penalty box," the Hockey News reported.
"Avery coaxed Jeff Carter into a hooking penalty in the first period, and Andrew Alberts got caught for charging him in the third."
In the seven games since the trade deadline, Avery and Antropov have combined to score eight of the 18 Ranger goals.
Lundqvist became the first goaltender in NHL history to win at least 30 games in each of his first four seasons. New Jersey Devils fans may not be impressed with that record, but Rangers' fans are.
At home, the Rangers are 21-10-4.
The Rangers have 11 games left this season, the Penguins have only nine, but the Flyers have a dozen.