NEW YORK -- The Rangers didn't get the job done Thursday in Carolina, suffering a regulation loss to the Hurricanes, so they need a win tonight in Madison Square Garden against the Sabres to clinch their sixth straight playoff berth and 10th in the last 11 years.
New York has won both meetings this year, extending its win streak over Buffalo to nine games since a loss in First Niagara Center on April 19, 2013. Derick Brassard has three goals and four assists in the two games and linemate Mats Zuccarello has four points.
"The toughest challenge for our teams has been teams with speed and the Rangers are probably one of the leaders in that category," coach Dan Bylsma said late this afternoon. "They play so quick into the offensive zone. They're quick when they have the puck and that's why Brassard and Zuccarello are so dangerous against us."
"They really use it to their advantage," added defenseman Mark Pysyk. "They know they're a fast team so they play a quick game. They get the pucks into their forwards hands and let them wheel."
There was no morning skate today due to a high school basketball tournament but there would not have been any surprises anyway. Bylsma said Chad Johnson will remain in goal, meeting Henrik Lundqvist, and the Sabres will keep the same lines. No reason to change: The Sabres' .600 points percentage in March (7-4-4) was their best month since they went 8-4-0 in April, 2013.
"I think we've been able to play a pretty tough brand of hockey, a hard brand of hockey," Bylsma said. "We've been physical throughout our lineup. We've played some good teams lately ... and I like the way our team has played."
About the only news out of Bylsma's pregame briefing was his admission the Sabres are thinking about some callups from Rochester for the final two games of the season, Friday at home against Columbus and Saturday in Brooklyn against the New York Islanders. Justin Bailey would figure to be one candidate, and you wonder if newly acquired St. Joe's product Cole Schneider would get a look as well.
Bylsma said he didn't expect any moves to take place prior to Tuesday's game in New Jersey.