An unfortunate bounce contributed to a loss for the Eastern Conference-leading New York Rangers in their return from the All-Star break.
Perhaps having All-Star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist back in net can spark a bounce-back performance.
Lundqvist is scheduled to start for the first time since the break Wednesday night when the Rangers try to disrupt the Buffalo Sabres' momentum at First Niagara Center.
New York (31-12-5) leads the East by one point over Northeast Division-leading Boston, and the Rangers seemed to be in position to widen that gap before falling 4-3 in a shootout at New Jersey on Tuesday. They held a one-goal lead until the puck caromed off the boards and went in front of the net where an unmarked David Clarkson was able to beat Martin Biron with 47.6 seconds left to force overtime.
"We were in total control," coach John Tortorella said. "Then, we get a bad bounce. I liked our game. We played good. We'll take the point and go on to Buffalo."
In Buffalo, Tortorella is expected to put Lundqvist back in net after he was rested in favor of Biron, who made 26 saves before stopping two of the three attempts in the tiebreaker Tuesday.
Lundqvist is a major reason for New York's lofty status in the conference, going 22-10-4 while his 1.87 goals-against average and five shutouts rank among the league leaders.
He has shutouts in two of his last four games, going 3-1-0 with a 1.23 GAA. That includes a 22-save effort in a 3-0 win over Winnipeg on Jan. 24 before the Rangers entered the All-Star break.
Lundqvist, though, hasn't been as effective over his last six games against the Sabres (21-24-5), posting a 1-4-1 record and 2.78 GAA. He sat out the most recent meeting Dec. 10, as Biron stopped 32 shots in a 4-1 victory in Buffalo.
Rookie Carl Hagelin had his first multi-goal game in that matchup, scoring twice with one coming short-handed.
Marian Gaborik, the All-Star game MVP with a hat trick, has seven points in six games after notching two assists against the Devils. However, he's only scored two goals in that stretch and has three in 13 games.
The right wing's 25 goals lead New York, getting one at Buffalo in December.
The Sabres are gaining momentum following Tuesday's 3-1 win at Montreal after entering the break with a 2-1 shootout victory at New Jersey on Jan. 24. This is the first time they've won consecutive games since a three-game streak from Nov. 5-11.
"It's always good to get a win on the road and we just have to turn it around quickly and quit patting ourselves on the back and go out and get the next one," said center Paul Gaustad, who matched a career high with three points on one goal and two assists.
Buffalo is 4-0-3 in its last seven home games since the December loss to the Rangers.
Continuing that run would be more difficult if left wing Thomas Vanek is unable to play. Vanek - the team leader with 19 goals - left after the first period Tuesday with an upper-body injury.
Vanek, whose status is unclear, scored in the last meeting with the Rangers.
- Sports & Recreation/Ice Hockey
- Sports & Recreation
- Henrik Lundqvist
- New York Rangers
- Buffalo Sabres
- Martin Biron