The New York Rangers return home after proving they can beat some of the best teams in the Western Conference. Back at Madison Square Garden, the Rangers try to beat one of the best teams in the East when they host the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday.
After a mediocre October, New York (7-6-0) regained its winning edge with three victories in four games on the West Coast.
The Rangers defeated San Jose 3-1 on Thursday, one night after defeating the Western Conference-leading Anaheim Ducks 4-3 in overtime. The Sharks and Ducks have the top two power-play units in the NHL, but New York stopped all 11 of their power-play opportunities.
“We played some excellent opponents. We’re on the same page now,” said goaltender Kevin Weekes, who stopped 29 shots Thursday. “You see everybody sacrificing to get to where we want to be.”
Weekes had played just once all season behind starter Henrik Lundqvist before the last two games, but started the wins over Anaheim and San Jose.
His only other start this season came against the Sabres (11-1-1) on Oct. 14 at Buffalo, when he made 25 saves in a 7-4 loss.
Lundqvist is expected to be back in goal for this game, however. He is 5-5 with a 3.57 goals-against average this season, and is 1-2 with a 2.10 GAA in his career against the Sabres.
New York’s Brendan Shanahan scored two goals against Buffalo in the meeting last month. He also scored his 610th career goal Thursday, tying him with Bobby Hull for 12th place on the all-time list.
The left wing leads the Rangers with 12 goals, and has five goals and four assists during his current six-game points streak. Shanahan, who played for Detroit the last nine seasons, has five goals and six assists in his last seven games against Buffalo.
New York has lost six of its last eight meetings with the Sabres, and has not defeated them in regulation since a 3-1 victory on Dec. 12, 2003.
The Sabres have lost two of their last three games after matching an NHL record by opening the season with 10 straight wins.
They fell to Toronto 4-1 on Saturday—their first defeat of the season in regulation—but suffered an even bigger loss when leading scorer Maxim Afinogenov left the game in the first period with an upper body injury.
Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff refused to give a specific timetable on how long the speedy forward would be sidelined, only saying it would be “a while.”
The Sabres recently lost defenseman Henrik Tallinder for six weeks because of a broken left forearm.
“We have to fight through these adversities,” center Derek Roy said. “We need to bear down and play our game.”
Friday’s loss was the second consecutive game when the Sabres fell behind 4-1. They came back on Thursday to defeat Boston in a shootout, but mounted no such rally against the Maple Leafs.
“You play with fire, you’re going to get burned,” said goaltender Ryan Miller, who has had allowed four goals in each of his last three starts.
Jochen Hecht scored the Sabres’ lone goal on Saturday, and also scored against New York on Oct. 14.
Center Chris Drury had a hat trick against the Rangers last month and leads the Sabres with 10 goals, but hasn’t scored in the last four games.