Trying to avoid missing the playoffs for franchise-record sixth consecutive season, the Rangers are tied for ninth in the Eastern Conference, six points behind the New York Islanders for the final playoff spot. The Islanders, who are idle Wednesday, have a game in hand on the Rangers.
On Monday, the Rangers ended a three-game losing streak with a critical 1-0 win over the Islanders as defenseman Brian Leetch scored a power-play goal with 8:17 remaining and Mike Dunham made 17 saves for his fourth shutout of the season.
“Mathematically, we’re still in this race, so if we can string a couple wins together and put a little pressure on the teams ahead of us, you never know down the stretch what can happen,” said right wing Anson Carter, who played his first home game since being acquired at the trade deadline.
New York on Monday shuffled its lines for the third time in as many games as Pavel Bure sat out with a knee injury. Bure, who missed over two months with a knee injury suffered in a collision with Buffalo’s Curtis Brown here on December 6, is questionable for Wednesday.
Buffalo’s 60 points are tied with Atlanta, Carolina, Columbus and Pittsburgh for the fewest in the league.
But the Sabres are a respectable 7-5-2-3 following a club-record eight-game losing streak. They ended a four-game winless slide (0-2-1-1) with a 5-2 home win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday.
In Tuesday’s win, J.P. Dumont and Jochen Hecht each had a goal and an assist as Lindy Ruff became the winningest coach in team history. Ruff, who ended his playing career in the NHL with the Rangers, has 211 wins as Buffalo’s coach.
Buffalo leads the season series 2-0-1, and owns a 12-4-6-1 advantage over the Rangers since the start of the 1997-98 season. The Sabres ended the longest losing streak in franchise history with a 5-4 win over the Rangers on Febraury 15.