Tonight the New York Rangers (36-24-9) visit the Buffalo Sabres (32-27-10). The Rangers head upstate on Monday night, looking to sweep the season series from the Sabres while trying to earn at least a point in their 13th straight game. The Rangers have been behind Pittsburgh and New Jersey in the Atlantic standings since early January, but while those two have continued to play well, neither has been as good as the Rangers’ 9-0-3 stretch over the last 12 games. They moved within four points of the Penguins and five of the division-leading Devils on Sunday, earning a 1-0 shootout win over Boston, which had beaten New York twice previously in shootouts. New York is in the bottom-third of the league in goals per game (2.57), but has played its best offensive hockey since the win against Buffalo on Feb. 16. Including that game, the Rangers are averaging 3.8 goals in their last 10. Chris Drury, who played three seasons in Buffalo before signing with New York as a free agent last summer, has four goals and four assists in that span. Sean Avery, who has eight goals in his last 11 games, had three goals and an assist against the Sabres this season. Along with the improved offense, Lundqvist has been excellent recently. He’s 4-0-1 with a 1.64 goals-against average in his last five starts. He’s been in goal for all three wins against Buffalo, posting a 1.67 GAA. The Sabres are four points behind Philadelphia for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot and fell to 1-3-1 in their last five games. For a full preview go to Yahoo! Sports.
...not shocking, the Sabres have started to faulter since they traded Campbell at the deadline. A loss by the Sabres tonight will probably end their season, so I expect Ruff to have these guys fired up.
...according to Steve Zipay at Blue Notes, Lundqvist will be back in goal tonight.
...Zipay also reports that Malik is pretty beat up from the hit he took from Nokelainen in yesterday's game. Looks like Strudwick will get the start if Malik can't go.
...speaking of the hit on Malik yesterday. I forgot to mention in my postgame comments that I loved that Drury came to Malik's defense and fought Nokelainen after the hit. I think Drury's actions showed two things 1) these guys have finally gelled as a team and 2) the team has forgiven Malik for everything that happened earlier this year. Can you say Drury for Captain next year.