At a glance: Concluding a seven-game homestand, the Rangers go for the series sweep against the Buffalo Sabres Friday at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers have rattled off two straight wins this week at MSG and hope to record their third before departing on a three-game road trip with stops in Toronto, Minnesota and Winnipeg.
Still in first: With less than ten games remaining in the regular season, the race for the top spot in the East is coming down to the wire. With a win tonight, the Rangers have a chance to restore a three-point lead on the idle Penguins, who sit only one point behind the Blueshirts following Thursday’s playoff-clinching win over Nashville. And while the Rangers have been out in front for the much of the season, the Penguins are making an impressive late push with 13 wins in their last 14 games.
Fighting for a spot: Speaking of playoff implications, the Sabres are clinging onto their post-season hopes while trailing he 8th-place Capitals by only a point. Buffalo, 11-2-3 since February 19, enters Friday’s match with a two-game winning streak and could leap-frog Washington should the Capitals lose to Winnipeg tonight.
Fed-Ex’ed: Limited to one goal and one assist in the last 16 games, Ruslan Fedotenko will be scratched for the second straight game. The veteran winger has struggled recently, but coach John Tortorella indicated he will get his chance to return to the lineup soon. Tortorella, who coached Fedotenko as a member of his 2004 Stanley Cup-winning team in Tampa, said he still “has a tremendous amount of faith,” in him.
Strength in net: Buffalo’s recent tear has been led by elite goaltender Ryan Miller, who boasts a gaudy .939 save percentage during his team’s recent five-week run. Miller told ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun that he thinks the pre-season label of Buffalo as a “Cup Contender” hurt the team, but that they have sinced rebounded to become “a team that can achieve.”
Feeling good: Saturday may be the last game off Henrik Lundqvist (34-15-5, .934 save %, 1.87 GAA) receives before the playoffs begin, but fatigue does not seem to be a factor for the Vezina Trophy front-runner. Lundqvist’s starts have been carefully minded this year – he’ll make his 55th tonight – and, as he readily admitted after the team’s morning skate, “winning helps.” So does the excitement in gearing up for the playoffs: “This time of year you never really feel tired.”