The Buffalo Sabres roll into Madison Square Garden to face the New York Rangers for the third and final time of the regular season. They are looking to avoid being swept by the Blueshirts. On October 31, the Sabres lost 2-0 at home. Then, on December 5, they lost again 3-1 at Madison Square Garden. During this time, former Sabres goaltender, Ryan Miller was in net and helped keep the games manageable. Since then, he was traded as part of a “rebuilding project”. Now, in the post-Miller era, the Sabres are looking to move forward and end the season on a high note.
Puck drop is scheduled at tonight, 7:00 pm ET. They are last place in both the Atlantic Division and the NHL. With a record of 21-49-9, there are no playoff hopes this season. In their last 10 games, they are 2-7-1, and currently on a four game losing streak. The month of April has not been kind to Buffalo. Since the beginning of the month, they are 1-4. Their lone win came in a shootout over the New Jersey Devils, 3-2. After tonight, they will have two games left with the Boston Bruins and New York Islanders. It has been a difficult and trying season for both the organization and its fan base. However, with little to play for but pride, the Sabres look to spoil home ice advantage for the Rangers and leave a bitter taste in their mouths.
Their best player has been centerman Cody Hodgson. For the season, he has 19 goals and 43 points. In his past five games, he has registered a point in four of them. With two goals and six points, he currently has the hot hand heading into tonight’s tilt. Also, he leads the team in power play goals with nine, second on the team in power play assists with 10, and ranks third in shots on goal with 169. Originally the 10th overall pick of the Vancouver Canucks in 2008, the 24-year-old has a bright future in Buffalo. He will certainly be a part of the team’s rebuilding plans. Following behind him, in points, is Tyler Ennis. He currently leads the team in goals with 21 and has 42 points, one behind Hodgson. He had two goals in the Sabres win over the Devils. However, he has had zero since and two points over his past four games. To make matters worse, he has been a -4 during that time.
Their defense is led by Christian Ehrhoff. He leads the team in assists with 27. For the season, he has six goals and 33 points. Also, he leads the team with over 24 minutes of ice time. He is second on the team for block shots with 116, behind fellow defenseman Mike Weber who has 146. Other notable team leader is forward Marcus Foligno leads the team in hits with 201.
Hampered by injuries, their goalie situation has been bleak. In goal, Matt Hackett will get the nod. The former Minnesota Wild net minder comes into Madison Square Garden with a record of 1-4-1, 3.20 goals against average, and a little over .900 save percentage. His past five games have not treated him kindly. He is winless, facing 30+ shots and giving up more than two goals in four of his five games. Despite this, head coach Ted Nolan has named Hackett as the team’s starting goalie for the three remaining games of the season.
Buffalo is riddled with injuries to end the season. It is a laundry list to key players especially in goal. Out for tonight’s contest are: goaltenders Nathan Lieuwen with a concussion, Jhonas Enroth and Michael Neuvirth both with lower body injuries since March, defensemen Tyler Myers with an upper body injury, Alexander Sulzer with an arm injury, and Chad Ruhwedel with a concussion, and centerman Zenon Konopka with back spasms.