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Preview: Power-play productivity key for Buffalo Sabres, New York Rangers matchup

Jan 26, 2021; Buffalo, New York, USA; Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen (55) controls the puck in front of New York Rangers left wing Artemi Panarin (10) in the third period at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

A productive power play helped the Buffalo Sabres win back-to-back games for the first time this season on Tuesday.

The struggling New York Rangers, meanwhile, need to improve their play with the man-advantage to start winning games.

Looking to extend their point streak to four games, the Sabres will try to hand the visiting Rangers a fifth consecutive defeat on Thursday night.

Buffalo went 3-for-17 on the power play while opening 1-3-1, but is 5-for-9 in winning its past two against the Washington Capitals and Rangers. Two of those goals came in Tuesday’s 3-2 home win over New York and included Jack Eichel’s first goal of the season to break a 2-2 tie near the midway point of the second period.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Sabres, check out #LetsGoBuffalo rumors, rankings, and news here.

Seven different Sabres have scored power-play goals this season.

“We have two (power-play) units firing right now,” coach Ralph Krueger told the Sabres’ official website. “That really is lethal. Very few teams have that kind of productivity from both units.”

Sabres rookie Dylan Cozens had one of those power-play goals on Tuesday, and two overall goals in as many games.

“We like where our group’s at right now,” said Eichel, who leads the club with eight points. “We think we’re only scratching the surface on the way we can play.”

The Rangers are trying to simply reach the surface at this one point. One of the NHL’s youngest teams, New York is 0-3-1 since winning 5-0 over the New York Islanders on Jan. 16. Each one of those defeats has been by one goal.

“A loss is a loss is a loss,” veteran Rangers forward Chris Kreider, who scored his second goal of the season Tuesday, told NHL.com. “Doesn’t matter if you’re close and doing the right things. It doesn’t matter if maybe the other team is tilting the ice a little bit. It’s about finding ways to win.

“It’s (four) in a row now. We’ve got to hate losing in that room and we’ve got to nip it in the bud right now.”

While the Sabres have thrived on the power play of late, the Rangers are 4-for-26 with the man-advantage this season and 0-for-5 in the past two contests. Three of those missed chances came at Buffalo on Tuesday.

Six games into the season, Alexis Lafreniere, the No. 1 overall pick by the Rangers in the 2020 NHL Draft, is still looking for his first point. Meanwhile, teammate Artemi Panarin has gone four straight games without a goal, and his run of four consecutive contests with at least one point ended Tuesday.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Rangers, check out #NYR rumors, rankings, and news here.

Alexandar Georgiev, who has a 2.66 goals-against average, made 21 saves at Buffalo on Tuesday. However, Igor Shesterkin (0-2-1, 3.27 goals-against average as a starter this season) could get the start on Thursday.

Buffalo’s Linus Ullmark has stopped 56 of the 61 shots he’s faced while winning his past two starts, including Tuesday. Teammate Carter Hutton (1-2-0, 2.65 goals-against average), though, is back with the team after being elbowed in the head during a collision at Philadelphia on Jan. 19.

–Field Level Media