Barely two weeks into the season and the New York Rangers are already feeling a sense of urgency to win games.
Meanwhile, Buffalo Sabres star Jack Eichel feels the same way about ending his early goal drought.
The Rangers look to avoid a fourth straight defeat when they face Eichel and the host Sabres on Tuesday night.
New York has earned just three points through its first five games, losing each of the last three by one goal. The Rangers took a 2-1 lead into the third period at Pittsburgh on Sunday but allowed a pair of goals in the final frame to fall 3-2.
“It’s 56 games and we can’t afford losing these points,” said veteran Mika Zibanejad, who has just two points through five games. “That’s something we have to take to real quick and change that.”
The Rangers have struggled on the power play (4 for 23). Meanwhile, goaltender Igor Shesterkin is 0-2-1 with a 2.98 goals-against average, and it’s possible Alexandar Georgiev (1-1-0, 2.40 GAA) could be in net Tuesday.
New York is also trying to avoid losing its first three road games for the third time in four seasons.
“There’s a way we play that we feel gives us the best chance to win,” said defenseman Jacob Trouba, who has one point this season. “We’ve got to stick with what we’re doing. We’re not making excuses or feeling sorry for ourselves. We’ve got to find a way to get wins.”
New York has won seven of its last nine against Buffalo, and has done a relatively good job of holding Eichel in check of late. One of the NHL’s most complete players, Eichel has just one goal and five assists in his last nine contests against the Rangers, but snapped a three-game pointless streak in the series with two assists during the Sabres’ 3-2 win at New York on Feb. 7, 2020.
Eichel has scored at least 24 goals in each of his previous five NHL seasons and recorded career-high 36 in 2019-20. However, he has yet to score a goal through six games this season — his longest drought ever to open a campaign.
“Obviously, I’m on a little bit of a schneid right now, trying to get off it,” Eichel, who has seven assists, told the Sabres’ official website. “I think as one goes in they’ll start coming.”
Eichel did, however, come through Sunday, scoring the lone goal in a shootout to give Buffalo its second win of the season, 4-3 at Washington. Victor Olofsson scored his third goal of the season for the Sabres, who went 3 for 5 on the power play — just the second game the club scored with the man-advantage. Playing in his 100th NHL game, Buffalo’s Linus Ullmark made 28 saves against the Capitals for his first victory in three starts this season.
It’s uncertain if Buffalo’s opening-night starter Carter Hutton (1-2-0, 2.65 GAA) will be available after missing the two-game trip to Washington with a head injury.
New York’s Artemi Panarin has recorded six points in the last four games. He has five goals and seven assists in his last nine versus Buffalo.
–Field Level Media