New York Rangers at Buffalo Sabres Game Preview 1/26/21

The Sabres (2-3-1) welcome the New York Rangers (1-3-1) and #1 overall pick from the 2020 draft, Alexis Lafreniere to Buffalo for their first matchup of the season. The Rangers are 0-2-1 in their last three games while the Sabres are 2-0-1 in their last three, so expect a Rangers team to come out on their toes and try to impose their game plan as opposed to reacting to the Sabres.

A note during the morning skate, Henri Jokiharju was missing and Matt Irwin took his place:

Expected Lines:

Buffalo Sabres

Hall – Eichel – Reinhar

Olofsson – Staal – Cozens

Rieder – Eakin – Okposo

Skinner – Lazar – Sheahan

McCabe – Ristolainen

Dahlin – Miller

Irwin – Montour

Ullmark

New York Rangers

Kreider – Zibanejad – Lafreniere

Panarin – Strome – Buchnevich

Di Giuseppe – Chytil – Kakko

Blackwell – Howden – Gauthier

Lindgren – Fox

Miller – Trouba

DeAngelo – Smith

Shesterkin or Georgiev

Similar Teams

The Rangers are like the Sabres where their underlying statistics show they should be producing better results, but their goaltending is holding them back. The Sabres enter tonight’s game with a .890 save % while the Rangers boast a slight higher % with .893.

So far neither teams is hurting themselves with too many penalties, the Sabres lead the league in fewest PIMs/G with 4.2, while the Ranger reside in 5th at 6.7 PIMs/G. The team that wins the 5 on 5 portion of the game will be in prime position to win the game. The Sabres are getting better high danger scoring chances this season than the Rangers, so Shesterkin (or Georgiev) will need to be on their A game.

Former Amerk Comes to Town

After departing from the Sabres organization in the summer of 2018 and playing for the Predator’s AHL team the Milwakee Admirals, Colin Blackwell found himself a permanent bottom-6 role in Nashville in December of 2019. For a former 7th round pick in his first extended NHL time, Blackwell put together 3 goals and 7assits for 10 points in 27 games. As a fourth line player, that’s respectable and earned him a contract with the New York Rangers this past offseason.

Sunday night he recorded his first goal in his first game as a Ranger. He’s tenacious, he’s hard nosed and the Sabres defense need to work efficiently below the dots when handling the puck or Blackwell will be all over them. What Blackwell lacks in size and skill, he makes up for with his never ending motor and hard nosed play.

It’s a nice story for a guy who took a longer route to make the NHL. Look for #43 to be flying out there tonight.

Shutdown Panarin

Following up a 95 point season in just 69 games, Artemi Panarin is leading the Rangers with 6 points in 5 games. One of the keys to defending Panarin is keeping him within reach in the defensive zone. He’s a slippery player that can find soft spots to get his wicked shot off. Think of Victor Olofsson, but significantly more dynamic in his all around game. That’s not to say he can’t beat you off the rush, he’ll find an opportunity to find space for a stretch pass, so Sabres defensemen need to keep their heads on a swivel.

Prediction

I have a feeling tonight might be a high scoring affair before things are locked up better on Thursday for the two teams. Based on the quality of chances the Sabres are getting as opposed to the Rangers, I think it’ll be a 5-3 victory for the Sabres.

Looking Ahead

After the conclusion of tonight’s game, the Sabres will host the Rangers again Thursday night before the New Jersey Devils come into town for a back-to-back matinees Saturday and Sunday.

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