Rangers' eyes on points vs. Sabres tonight at MSG
• Game Notes
• Saturday Night's Recap
By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com
Coming off a 2-0 defeat in Washington on Saturday night, the Rangers have no time to look back as another tough opponent, the Buffalo Sabres, invades Madison Square Garden this evening to skate against the Blueshirts.
The Rangers are now 1-1-1 in their first three games following the Olympic break. With 66 points, they sit tied with the Atlanta Thrashers in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, two points out of the final playoff spot occupied by the Montreal Canadiens.
|Rangers captain Chris Drury's prowess in shorthanded situations will be important against his former teammate Thomas Vanek of the Sabres, who has scored eight of his 19 goals on the power play this season.
This is not a time for reflection, but rather all attention must be focused on the task at hand for the Rangers because the standings points are so crucial.
“You get ready to play another game (Sunday) night,” Rangers head coach John Tortorella said following Saturday night’s loss. “We need to be better in certain areas and we’ll try and remedy some things, especially the penalties. We don’t have enough time to worry about, and lament, this. We have to get ready to play another game against Buffalo.”
The Rangers actually played a very strong road game against the Capitals, limiting the league’s highest-scoring team to fewer than three goals for the first time in 24 games. Washington, though, took advantage of the few opportunities it was given -- including a 5-on-3 power play in the first period -- and rode the terrific goaltending of Jose Theodore to victory.
“When they had chances, they scored,” said Tortorella. “We let so many chances pass by where we didn’t even put a shot on net. We have to find a way when we have opportunities to at least get a shot on the net.”
Among the bright spots for the Rangers last night was the play of goalie Alex Auld. The veteran, who was acquired last week off re-entry waivers to back up Henrik Lundqvist
, stopped 26 of 28 shots in his Rangers debut.
Auld was a major reason why Alex Ovechkin was held without a point in the game. In fact, twice in the third period Auld stared down Ovechkin from point-blank range and denied the league’s second leading scorer.
“He played well,” defenseman Marc Staal
said of Auld. “He plays the puck well and he’s confident. He played a great game. It’s too bad we couldn’t get a couple goals for him.”
Lundqvist will return to work tonight, starting between the pipes against Buffalo. In his most recent outing, Tuesday against the Penguins at MSG, Lundqvist made a career-high 50 saves, although they came in a 5-4 overtime loss.
“It was the best game I have ever seen him play,” Olli Jokinen said of Lundqvist’s performance on Tuesday. “He’s a top goalie who gives us a chance to win every night.”
On the topic of top goalies, the Rangers will be facing one of the NHL’s elite netminders this evening. Ryan Miller, who has had a sensational season, so far, for the Sabres and who was the MVP of the Olympics while tending goal for Team USA, is expected to start opposite Lundqvist tonight.
Miller owns the NHL’s best save percentage this season (.931), and his 2.16 goals against average is second best. Not surprisingly the Sabres have benefitted greatly, and they currently sit atop the Northeast Division and in third place overall in the East with 77 points as a result.
He will be facing his United States teammates Chris Drury
and Ryan Callahan
tonight. Both Drury and Callahan have taken the momentum of their strong play at the Winter Games and carried it into their return to the Rangers. Callahan, in particular, seems even more confident and engaged with his offensive game the past three contests.
“I thought it was going to be tougher (coming off the high of the Olympics) than it has been,” said Callahan. “But it was so easy to get right back into it, falling right back into things with the guys here in this room. It was an exciting time there, but it’s an exciting time here right now. We are in a serious spot where we have to get some wins and make our push for the playoffs.”
After tonight’s contest the Rangers will be able to catch their collective breath with days off on Monday and Tuesday. Then it is back to work on Wednesday when they head to Newark to face the Devils at the Prudential Center.