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Freefalling Rangers missing edge

The freefall continues for the New York Rangers. The worst team money can buy dropped into a tie with the Buffalo Sabres and Florida Panthers for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference after Saturday's 4-2 loss in HSBC Arena.

The Rangers went more than 11 1/2 minutes without a shot on goal at one stretch, starting with the final 6:08 of the first period. A deeper look at the numbers is even uglier:

The Rangers are 2-7-2 in their last 11 games overall and have scored two goals or less in nine of them.

They are 0-7-1 in their last eight road games and have been outscored, 31-8.

Markus Naslund's third-period power play goal made the Rangers just three for their last 40 on the power play.

"There's never an excuse to not play well. We're professionals. We have to prepare and try to play our best," said goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. "I don't know what's missing."

"What we've got to be careful of is alluding to frustration, stress, pressure, those types of things because we don't score first," said embattled coach Tom Renney. "We've got to play with that belief and commitment to little things. This is where we are. So let's deal with it and get going."

Renney, however, may be going to the unemployment line sooner rather than later. The coach's job status is an open topic in the Rangers' dressing room.

"That's a part of the business none of us can control," said center Scott Gomez. "It's the last thing you think of. We hope Tom doesn't go anywhere."

The Rangers were 10-2-1 in October but Saturday's loss dropped them to 21-21-5 since. They played well for about 10 minutes, missing on several good scoring chances, and then quickly deflated after Buffalo's Daniel Paille scored the game's first goal.

"We need to come back to what's been good to us," Renney said. "That's managing the puck and elevating our battle level to the type of desperation we need to be a physical presence in the game, to demonstrate you're in the battle."

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Former Sabres captain Chris Drury had just one shot on goal for the Rangers in 21:37 of ice time and endured his 14th straight game without a goal. Booed every time he touched the puck, Drury was minus-1 in the game and his rating for the season fell to minus-11. He was not in the locker room area accessible to the media after the game.

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Henrik Tallinder was back in the Sabres' lineup after missing 12 games with a shoulder injury and 40-year-old Teppo Numminen was made a healthy scratch as coach Lindy Ruff opted to keep rookie Chris Butler in the lineup.

Ruff wasn't happy with Numminen's play in Sunday's loss to Carolina and Numminen was a spectator on Mike Knuble's go-ahead goal in the third period Thursday in Philadelphia, failing to cover the Flyers forward in time after Jaroslav Spacek's turnover behind the Buffalo net.

"First and foremost, it's about winning," Ruff said. "We'll address who we think our top six [defensemen] are and what we think is going to work. Right now we're looking for more of a physical edge with Butler in the lineup." "We talked about this earlier in the year," Numminen said. "I got a heads-up there's going to be times I have to sit so it's not a surprise. They said it's going to happen and I said, 'That's fine. You guys say when I play and when I don't play.' I'm fine with that. You always want to play. That's why you're here. "

Numminen didn't want to elaborate on his recent play other than to admit he's always trying to improve even at this stage of his career.

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Derek Roy's three-point night was his fifth of the season. His has a trio of four-point games in his career, the last one coming on Jan. 18, 2008 against Atlanta.

e-mail: mharrington@buffnews.com

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