By Frank Wolf
The 2nd best team in the National Hockey League is in Buffalo tonight to battle the Sabres. With a 16-7-1 record, the NY Rangers are just 1 point behind the Montreal Canadiens in the latest league standings. The Rangers are coming off a very productive November that saw them win 10 out of 15 and score 53 goals in the process.
On Tuesday night the “Broadway Blueshirts” pulled out a 3-2 come from behind victory over the visiting Carolina Hurricanes. Rick Nash played a pivotal role in the Rangers comeback victory, scoring the equalizer and then setting up Jimmy Vesey for the game-winner. Nash has 10 goals on the season and is tied with Kevin Hayes for 2nd on the team, two behind Michael Grabner (12).
Vesey on the other hand is having himself an above average rookie season. He’s popped in 8 goals, recorded six helpers and has played in all 24 games. Sabres fans will remember last June GM Tim Murray traded away a 3rd round pick for the rights to Jimmy Vesey then a Nashville Predator. Prior to the deal, Vesey advised Nashville he would test the free agent waters at seasons end last Spring. Knowing the risks, Murray took a gamble that he could land the highly-coveted player.
On August 20th, Vesey signed a two-year deal with the Rangers. The decision didn’t sit well with most Sabres fans who had high hopes for the Harvard University product and 2016 Hobey Baker Award winner. “It seemed that they (Rangers) really needed to have me in their lineup and it seemed that they believe in me. That was something that I was looking for” Vesey said shortly after becoming NY property. I thought of this quote the minute Jack Eichel went down a day before the season opener. Perhaps that is something that the home crowd will think of as well when Vesey skates onto the Key Bank Center ice tonight. Vesey didn’t say screw you Buffalo, he may have said that to Nashville, but he never asked to be traded to the Sabres. He was never really ours to begin with. Fans will want to heckle him because, fans. But it’s nothing like when Chris Drury left. And even then the boo’s should have been directed at Darcy Regier, then Sabres GM.
“I don’t know anyone that paid any attention to it. He was never in the locker room with us” defenseman Josh Gorges said at training camp. Adding “We play for the guys in the room.”
As far as the game tonight goes Buffalo will have Eichel back in the lineup as he made a momentous return Tuesday in Ottawa, guiding Buffalo to a 5-4 win. Robin Lehner left that game abruptly late in the first period and although he participated in the morning skate Thursday, will not start tonight. Instead it will be Anders Nillson who has won three out of his last four starts. Nillson has played admirably in a back-up role this season but could see more time if Lehner continues to have issues with his hip. Declaring himself 90% after today’s skate.
The Sabres dropped 9 of the last 10 meetings with the Rangers. HC Dan Bylsma is expected to use the same line combinations from Tuesday’s game.
Niagara Falls native Adam Clendening will be in the lineup tonight for the Rangers. The 36th overall draft choice of the Chicago Blackhawks back in 2011 has appeared in 56 games split between Chicago, Vancouver, Pittsburgh, Edmonton and New York. He has played in 6 games this season with the Rangers and is a plus/minus +4 with two assists.
Hear the game on WGR550am or see the game on MSG, puck drop 7pm. Pregame begins at 630.
@wolf3328 Keys to the game:
– Take the Game to the Rangers, don’t sit back
– Play 60 minutes
– Avoid Dumb Penalties
For New York
– Get Pucks Deep, Pressure Sabres Defenseman
– Hit Eichel and O’Reilly Every Shift
– Score First