Sabres at Rangers
The New York Rangers continued their dominance of the Buffalo Sabres with an overtime victory in the NHL’s 10th Winter Classic at Citi Field earlier this month. Although technically the road team in that encounter, the Rangers look to post their 12th win in their last 15 meetings with the Sabres on Thursday when they face off at Madison Square Garden.
J.T. Miller scored a power-play goal 2:43 into overtime to send New York to a 3-2 win over Buffalo on Jan. 1 and tallied in Tuesday’s 5-1 rout of Philadelphia. Michael Grabner also scored in the first meeting with the Sabres and has tallied in back-to-back contests to raise his total to a team-best 20 goals for the Rangers, who boast a 14-4-1 in their last 19 at home. Buffalo is returning from its NHL-mandated five-day break and bids to post wins in back-to-back outings on the heels of last Thursday’s 3-1 triumph over Columbus. “It was great that we won that game before the break because you could see the energy in our practice,” coach Phil Housley said on Wednesday. “(The team had) really good life out there. I think the guys are feeling good about themselves. I think the coaches are feeling good about themselves.”
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MSG (New York)
ABOUT THE SABRES (11-24-9): Kyle Okposo entered the break on a high with five points (one goal, four assists) in his previous two games and also set up two goals in the first meeting with New York. “I really want to get back at a level that I know I’m capable of, being an elite player,” the 29-year-old Okposo said. “… You come to work and you want to be at your best, you want to prove to yourself and prove to everybody that you still have it, you’re a good player.” Fellow forward Jack Eichel, who leads the team in goals (18), assists (23) and points (41), has three goals and three assists during his three-game point streak.
ABOUT THE RANGERS (23-17-5): Defenseman Marc Staal will sit out versus Buffalo with a hip flexor injury sustained against the Flyers, coach Alain Vigneault said following Wednesday’s practice. “I don’t expect it to be long,” said Vigneault, who also noted that Steve Kampfer will rejoin the lineup versus the Sabres. Forward Kevin Hayes, who is deemed day-to-day as he deals with a contusion, worked out off the ice on Wednesday and is “coming along,” Vigneault said.
1. New York’s Henrik Lundqvist, who became the first NHL goaltender to post 20 or more wins in each of his first 13 seasons, has yielded one goal or fewer in five of his last 10 contests versus Buffalo (7-2-0).
2. Sabres D Rasmus Ristolainen scored and set up a goal in the first meeting with the Rangers and sits one assist shy of 100 for his career.
3. New York LW Rick Nash, who tallied twice versus Philadelphia, has 13 points (nine goals, four assists) in his last 13 games versus Buffalo.