“Yes, we could have played better (the previous two games), and we want to play better, but for the most part we’ve played well. We hate losing no matter what. And we’ve dropped two in a row, so we have to keep a posiitve feeling and be excited to play (this weekend).”
- Brian Boyle via Blueshirts United
Opponent Blog: Sabre Noise
Despite losing their last two games, the New York Rangers enter the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, NY riding a four-game road winning streak and look to extend that against the Sabres. The Blueshirts will look to improve upon their 8-4-2 read record - 10th best in the NHL – away from MSG with Martin Biron in net. The contest should be a close one as six of the last eight meetings between the Rangers and Sabres have been decided by one goal.
Brad Richards enters the contest with a team season-high, seven-game point streak (four goals, seven assists over the span), while both Derek Stepan (one goal, four assists) and Artem “The Marksman” Anisimov (three goals, two assists) have their respective four-game point streaks on the line.
Buffalo is 4-4-2 in their last ten games, but has struggled on home ice this season (7-8-2), though they did win 2-1 in overtime against the Florida Panthers Friday night on Jason Pominville’s game-winning goal. Tomas Vanek is second on the team to Pominville’s 30 points with 28 of his own, but only four points in his last nine games.
Join me after the jump for the full pre-game report and keys to victory.
INJURIES: Wojtek Wolski (sports hernia), Mike Rupp (knee), Marc Staal (concussion), and Michael Sauer (concussion) are all OUT for tonight’s game. Erik Christensen is a healthy scratch.
Artem Anisimov – Derek Stepan – Marian Gaborik
Ruslan Fedotenko – Brad Richards – Ryan Callahan
Carl Hagelin – Brian Boyle – John Mitchell
Sean Avery – Brandon Dubinsky – Brandon Prust
Ryan McDonagh – Dan Girardi
Michael Del Zotto – Michael Sauer
Jeff Woywitka – Steve Eminger
KEYS TO VICTORY:
- SCORE FIRST: The Rangers are 11-1-1 when they score the first goal – a .846 winning % only bested by Chicago’s .909%. It’s imperative they capitalize early on their chances -especially with the Sabres coming off a game 24 hours ago – something they failed to do against the Lightning in their last game.
- BREAK THROUGH AGAINST ENROTH: It will be Jhonas Enroth, not Ryan Miller, starting for the Sabres tonight. In two career starts, Enroth is 1-0-1 and has only given up three goals in the process. The good news is Buffalo ranks 22nd in shots allowed per game (31.2) and the Rangers are 8-1-0 (.889% is best in the NHL) when outshooting their opponents.
- HOME-ICE DISADVANTAGE: Buffalo is 12th in the NHL in times short-handed (102), but 3rd most at home (69), giving up 10 power play goals in 17 games (9th worst in the NHL). With the Rangers power play 7-30 (23.3%) in their last seven games, New York needs to take advantage of Buffalo’s lack of discipline on home ice.
- RE-DISCOVER THE BALANCE: You won’t win many hockey games if you can’t roll 4 lines that can be a threat to score or provide energy with each shift. Torts has gotten away from his bottom six forwards lately – partially due to taking more penalties – and with that, the team has suffered. This means players such as Dubinsky (no goals in 10 games) and Boyle (one goal since Oct 18th) need to find ways to be more productive and get some pucks in the back of the net.
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