Fresh off their 2-1 victory over the Florida Panthers, the Buffalo Sabres take on the New York Rangers tonight (7 pm EST) at the First Niagara Center. Last night's home victory was only the second in the last eight home games for Buffalo. The Sabres can get back to .500% hockey at home with a victory tonight, as they currently sit at 7-8-2 as the host team.
The Rangers are coming off two consecutive losses on home ice, a 4-2 decision on Monday against Toronto, and a shootout loss to Tampa Bay on Thursday night. The Sabres, who have struggled to find consistent goal scoring, will have their hands full with a Rangers defense that allows the second fewest goals per game in the Eastern Conference at 2.20 g/game. Conversely, Buffalo is tied with Carolina for the second most goals allowed in the NHL on home ice with 49, only Anaheim has surrendered more home goals (53).
Injuries continue to mount for the Sabres who were dealt another blow as forwards Corey Tropp, and Jochen Hecht were hurt in last night’s victory. They now join a list of inactives that includes Brad Boyes, Tyler Myers, Patrick Kaleta, Mike Weber, Paul Gaustad, and Nathan Gerbe. Returning to action tonight will be winger Ville Leino who missed the Florida game as a result of a one game suspension from his elbow to the head of Philadelphia Flyer’s rookie Matt Read on Wednesday night.
The Ranger’s will be without forwards Mike Rupp and Wojtek Wolski, who are both on IR. Additonally defensemen Michael Sauer and Marc Staal are both recovering from concussions. Marc Staal has yet to play in the 2011/2012 season.
The Sabres should have an edge in the special teams department tonight, as the Rangers boast one of the league’s worst road power-play percentages at 9.8%. Meanwhile the Sabres have the NHL’s 9th best home penalty kill at 85.5%. The Sabres are also converting at a healthy 19.2% at home on the power play, while the Ranger’s sport a pedestrian 83.3% penalty kill on the road.
This is the second half of the Buffalo Sabres league leading 21 back to back sets of games this season. So far in the seven previous back to backs the Sabres are 9-5, with a 5-2 record in the second game of those series.