Buffalo Sabres vs New York Rangers 4/1/21 Game Preview

Expected Lines

Sabres

Hall – Mittelstadt – Thompson

Olofsson – Reinhart – Okposo

Skinner – Asplund – Sheahan

Reider – Eakin – Fogarty

Dahlin – Jokiharju

Bryson – Ristolainen

Montour – Miller

Tokarski

Rangers

Kreider – Zibanejad – Buchnevich

Panarin – Strome – Kakko

Lafreniere – Chytil – Gauthier

Di Giuseppe – Rooney – Blackwell

Lindgren – Fox

Miller – Trouba

Hajek – Smith

Shesterkin

Tale of the Tape

Record: Buffalo (7-23-5; 8th division/31st league) vs. New York Rangers (16-15-4; 6th division/20th league)

5v5 Goals For %: Buffalo (36.92%; 31st) vs. New York Rangers (53.24%; 12th)

5v5 xGoals For %: Buffalo (47.38%; 23rd) vs. New York Rangers (50.33%; 16th)

Point Leaders: Reinhart (22) vs. Strome (33)

Milestone Watch

Kyle Okposo is two goals away from 200 in his NHL career

Rasmus Dahlin is four points away from 100 in his NHL career

Lazar Out, Asplund In

Add trading Eric Staal to the list above, the Sabres are left with Mittelstadt, Reinhart, Eakin and most likely Rasmus Asplund or Riley Sheahan as their center depth for tonight’s game.

Curtis Lazar is having a solid year for the Sabres despite all of the issues.

Lazar’s expected role is a 4th line energy producer. Yes, team energy has lacked during the winless drought, but under Interim Head Coach Don Granato, the energy and pace has picked up the past few games. Obviously that is not solely the doing of Lazar, but he is most certainly a piece of that puzzle. Not to mention, Lazar is tied for 2nd on the team with 5 goals at 5v5, behind only Sam Reinhart who has 7 thus far. He might not be exceeding expectations, not many players on team will this season, but he is meeting the expectations laid out for his role and it is up to Rasmus Asplund to step in and take over Lazar’s responsibilities.

Stop Fox

The Rangers have another exciting, point producing defenseman in their beautiful red, white and blue sweater. Adam Fox is having himself a fantastic season coming into tonight’s game, especially in March where he posted 3 goals and 17 assists for 20 points in 15 games.

He’s stringing together game after game after game after game after game of real high-end hockey. I watch it with a critical eye, thinking about the team and how they’re going to get back to the playoffs and eventually win the Stanley Cup. But when I watch him play, a lot of the time it’s as a fan. I enjoy the way he plays and the plays he makes. It’s fun to watch.

Brian Leetch, Hall of Famer and Former Rangers Defenseman, Current Senior Advisor for the Rangers via The Athletic

Fox’s best assets are his skating, puck moving and vision, giving him ample opportunities to jump up in the play and use his slick hands to finish. Sabres forwards will need to keep their head on a swivel to make sure they’re getting their stick or body in his way. The less time and space he has to operate, the better the Sabres will be at keeping him off the scoresheet.

Play Free

The Sabres have nothing to lose and need to play accordingly. Now, this does not mean play with reckless abandonment or take detrimental penalties. What “playing with nothing to lose” means is the Sabres should be looking for every opportunity to overload the Rangers on the offensive side of the game, especially from the backend. This means pinching down the wall even if it is a 50/50 play, carrying the puck in and cycling the puck or leading the rush instead of dumping the puck and making quick breakdown plays that open the ice for the forwards.

The Sabres defensemen can be key to the team’s offensive success tonight. With lockdown defenders like Jake McCabe and Will Borgen out of the lineup, the Buffalo blueline has a lot of potential for offensive production. This might not directly correlate with points on the scoresheet, but with players like Dahlin, Bryson, Montour and Ristolainen, the ability to jump up in the play to keep constant pressure on Rangers defenders is there.

Interim Don Granato has done a solid job at removing the shackles of players like Dahlin and Montour, leading to an improvement in their play. With those two on the uptick and the team playing more confident last night, I will be keep a close eye on how engaged the defense getting the offense going. The forwards will need help doing so and the best defense for Tokarski will be getting the puck out of the Sabres zone efficiently.

Prediction

So far this season, I have been wrong close to 100% of time on my predictions. Last night, I predicted the Sabres would lose. Tonight, I put my faith in being wrong again.

Rangers win 5-2, Zibanejad and Fox both have multi-point performances.

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