NEW YORK – The Sabres had a good memory going into their bye week, snapping a five-game losing streak with last Thursday's 3-1 win over Columbus in KeyBank Center. They return to action tonight in Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers, once again trying for their first two-game winning streak since October.
Since beating Boston and Detroit in a pair of one-goal games Oct. 21 and 24, the Sabres are 0-5-2 in their attempts to win two straight. There's your first stat of the day.
Here are Five (Other) Things to Know about tonight's game:
1. On the air: Folks on Twitter seem more interested in the Vegas-Tampa Bay showdown tonight in Florida but it's the Sabres and Rangers who are getting the national treatment on NBC Sports Network this evening. Faceoff is shortly after 7:30 with Gord Miller and Brian Boucher on the call. Dan Dunleavy and Rob Ray will be doing the game on WGR Radio.
2. In the nets: It's an all-Swedish matchup, just like at the Winter Classic with Robin Lehner (9-16-6/2.94/.910) manning the Buffalo net against Henrik Lundqvist (20-11-4/2.54/.924). Lehner has been pulled twice in his last three starts and took a shot to the neck area Jan. 7 in Philadelphia. Linus Ullmark got the start and earned the win against the Blue Jackets.
Lehner is 2-2-2 in his career against the Rangers with a 3.19 goals-against average but a .918 save percentage. This will be his 200th career NHL game. Against Buffalo, Lundqvist is 19-12-2/2.34/and also .918. But in his last 10 meetings, The King is 7-2/2.12/.924 against the Sabres, allowing one goal or fewer in five of the 10 games.
Lundqvist's win over Philadelphia on Tuesday night made him the first goalie in NHL history to earn 20 or more wins in his first 13 seasons, and the first in league annals to win 20 in 13 straight years at any point of his career.
3. The Sabres lineup: Nathan Beaulieu is out with the flu so Casey Nelson makes his season debut here tonight. Victor Antipin skated hard this morning and will remain a healthy scratch. Nelson leads the Rochester Amerks with a plus-11 rating while collecting 11 points in 37 games.
Coach Phil Housley today on Nelson: "No. 1, he's earned his right to come up here because he's played solid down in Rochester. Just his puck movement, jumping up in the play, defending well. We're going to have to defend against a good team that cycles well, and see him jumping up in the play to create some things offensively. It's nothing he hasn't done down in Rochester. It's more of the same up here."
Housley on Antipin: "He hasn't had a chance to get some really good practices in. Yesterday was his first solid practice with the team. He'll get worked out today and eventually he'll work his way into the lineup."
4. Killer penalty kill: The Sabres have allowed a power-play goal in seven straight games, going just 11 for 20 on the penalty kill in that stretch. They have dropped to 25th overall in the NHL on the PK and 28th on the road. The Rangers, meanwhile, are 15th on the power play and 11th at home. Buffalo remains last in the NHL on the power play at 12.9 percent and 26th on the road.
5. Screwy schedule: This will be the second of three meetings between the teams this year – and the Rangers will not travel to Buffalo for the first time since the Sabres entered the NHL in 1970. Buffalo's lone "home" matchup against New York this season was the Winter Classic, and the Sabres also come here on March 24. The Sabres have won their last two trips to the Garden after going 0-4-1 in their previous five visits.