TONIGHT'S GAME IS SPONSORED BY NEW ERA CAP.
RANGERS (22-17-4) at SABRES (19-19-6)
TV: MSG, MSG-B
Last 10: Buffalo 6-3-1, New York 6-3-1
Season series: This is the third and final meeting this season between these teams. They've split the first two, with the New York Rangers winning 3-2 in a shootout at Madison Square Garden on March 3 before the Buffalo Sabres earned a 3-1 home win nine days later.
Big story: This is the Sabres' season. They enter the game trailing the eighth-place Rangers by four points in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Anything less than a regulation win traded away some of their top veteran players at the Trade Deadline, the Rangers looked to add pieces to their roster. Despite their contrasting approaches to the deadline, both teams are currently battling for the final playoff spot in the East, with the Sabres trailing eighth-place New York by four points and the Rangers holding a game in hand.
Rangers: With a 5-1-1 record to start April, the Rangers appeared to be getting hot at just the right time. But their hopes of earning a playoff spot hit a snag Tuesday night as they were downed 4-2 by the Flyers in Philadelphia. The Rangers looked to rebound from that loss at home against the Florida Panthers Thursday night.
New York stormed out early against Florida, scoring two power-play goals in the first period. But momentum shifted late in the period when Panthers rookie Jonathan Huberdeau halved the Rangers lead with a highlight-reel goal. Following a slowed pace to start the third, the Rangers came alive late in regulation, scoring three goals in a 3:25 span to wrap up a 6-1 win. Mats Zuccarello and Derick Brassard, neither of whom was even on the Rangers roster three weeks ago, both scored twice. Rick Nash added a goal and two assists.
"Every game means so much," Nash said. "We need to pour it all in every game now. We're desperate for points."
Sabres: Hockey was an afterthought for a while Wednesday night as the Sabres participated in the first Boston sporting event since the tragic bombing at the Boston Marathon two days earlier that killed three people and injured dozens more.
Following a series of poignant tributes to the victims of the attack, both teams provided a welcome escape to the tragedy of recent events. And the Boston faithful got an emotional burst early in the game when Daniel Paille opened the scoring for the Bruins. Thomas Vanek and Chris Kelly traded goals from there before Cody Hodgson tied the game with 27 seconds remaining in regulation. The power-play goal came moments after Andrew Ference was assessed a delay of game penalty and Ryan Miller had been pulled for an extra attacker.
Drew Stafford scored the lone shootout goal to give Buffalo a much-needed 3-2 victory. But with both teams saluting the crowd together at center ice, it was clear that the final score was of lesser importance on this night.
"As an American, and even just as a member of this society where we live and we're free, you hate to see these things happen," Miller said. "It transcends what nationality you are, we're all people. It was horrible to see all the people injured."
Who's hot: For the Rangers, Zuccarello has three goals in his past two games while Brassard has five points in his current four-game point streak. … Vanek has three points in his past two games while Christian Ehrhoff has three points in his three-game point streak. Miller has allowed two goals or fewer in seven of his past 10 games.
Injury report: New York is without defensemen Marc Staal (eye) and Michael Sauer (concussion) while wing Derek Dorsett will not play this season due to a collarbone injury. Center Brian Boyle missed Thursday's game with a lower-body ailment and also will not play Friday. … The Sabres are missing defensemen Tyler Myers and Alex Sulzer, who are both gone for the rest of the season with leg injuries, while wing Ville Leino is out indefinitely with an upper-body injury.
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