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Tonight's foes both looking to climb

Below are two quotes delivered Tuesday, one from Buffalo Sabres coach Lindy Ruff and the other from New York Rangers forward Ryan Callahan. See if you can guess who said what.

1. "It's just about trying to get our game where we need it so we can move up the standings."

2. "We're just worried about trying to get as high up in the standings as we can."

It doesn't much matter does it? It's obvious both guys have the same goal. They each get a chance to do something about it tonight at the other's expense.

The Sabres welcome the Rangers to HSBC Arena in a matchup of two hot teams trying to better their position in the Eastern Conference.

The Rangers are 6-0-1 in their last seven games and 8-1-1 in the last 10. The Sabres are 4-1-1 and 11-4-3.

The spurts have moved the teams within two points of each other, with the Rangers in seventh place at 87 points and the Sabres right behind with 85 following Tuesday's loss at Toronto.

It's certainly an important game, one of the final six for both Buffalo and New York.

"There doesn't need to be anything added no matter who we play because there's enough there," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "I know everybody's looking at the points, but we're just concerned about ourselves and trying to find another way to win a hockey game."

The Rangers have been winning in a variety of ways. They scored 17 goals in three games to outscore the Canadiens, New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins. In the last three, they scored just one goal per game yet beat Florida and Boston and lost in a shootout to Ottawa thanks to the goaltending of Henrik Lundqvist.

They've also been dominant on the road, heading into Buffalo with a 6-1 record in the last seven games off Broadway.

"We've been good on the road, and we've got to keep doing the things we've done to be successful," Rangers forward Brandon Prust told the team Website.

New York was scheduled to rest in Buffalo on Tuesday night while the Sabres were playing. The Sabres are 8-8-2 in the second game of back-to-backs.

"We know before the year starts that we're going to have to play a lot of those, and it's just part of the game and part of our schedule. We just deal with it," said Sabres right wing Jason Pominville, whose team is playing its 19th of 22 sets of back-to-backs.

The latest one gives the team a chance to move up the Eastern Conference standings. Ruff (Quote No. 1) and Callahan (Quote No. 2) know that is what matters most tonight.

"We've got ourselves in a situation where if we put a nice little run together we can move up the standings," Ruff said.

* * *

The Sabres continue to be on course for a European work trip, according to ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun. He has reported that although the NHL has decided to send just four teams overseas to start the next season instead of six, the Sabres remain one of the four.

The league wanted to send six teams, including the Washington Capitals, to the annual Premiere Games. Negotiations to play in Russia fell through, however, so the Alexander Ovechkin-led Caps are out, along with the Edmonton Oilers, according to the report. The Sabres remain on the itinerary along with the Rangers, Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks.

Forwards Jochen Hecht and Thomas Vanek previously told The News that the Sabres are anticipating holding training camp in Germany.

* * *

The Sabres took on the Maple Leafs without right wing Mike Grier, who has been dealing with knee soreness. He skipped Monday's practice, took part in Tuesday's morning skate but sat for the game with Mark Mancari taking his place.

Ruff had no further update on the conditions of defenseman Jordan Leopold (hand) or forward Patrick Kaleta (knee).

* * *

Defenseman Shaone Morrisonn played just 8:36 while putting up a dismal minus-3.

"It was a game where I just want to throw it in the garbage because it just wasn't there," Morrisonn said. "The focus wasn't there. It's a tough way to play a game. It can't happen again."

e-mail: jvogl@buffnews.com

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