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Rangers to put playoff push up against improving Sabres

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Trying to find a way into playoff position in the East Division, the New York Rangers recently got help in that pursuit from the Buffalo Sabres.

Now, the Rangers will focus their attention on continuing their season success against the visiting Sabres on Sunday night.

At roughly the same time the Rangers (24-18-6, 54 points) avoided their third straight defeat with Friday’s 4-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers, the Sabres (13-28-7, 33 points) knocked off Boston 6-4. Those results left the Rangers six points back of the Bruins, who own the fourth and final playoff spot in the East and also have two games in hand over New York.

“You do a lot of scoreboard watching,” Rangers coach David Quinn said. “Anyone that tells you you don’t is lying to you. We can’t control what’s going on away from us.

“We know the task in front of us. We just have to continue to approach each night in the right way, and when we do that, we have a chance to win.”

New York has done that while going 4-1-1 against Buffalo this season. However, five of those contests were decided by one goal and three were decided past regulation.

Igor Shesterkin is 3-0-1 with a 1.90 goals-against average against the Sabres this season, but has allowed nine goals in losing his last two starts this month. Teammate Alexander Georgiev made 26 saves against the Flyers and owns a 1.69 GAA while winning his last three starts.

Rangers star Artemi Panarin has nine goals with 17 assists over his last 14 games, and three goals with six assists in five games versus Buffalo this season.

The Sabres are last in the East, but 7-5-2 since their club-record 18-game winless rut (0-15-3). They’re also 3-0-1 on the road since going 0-9-1 away from home. Sam Reinhart has been a bright spot in a rather dismal season for Buffalo, leading the team with 20 goals — marking the fourth consecutive campaign that he’s reached that mark.

Reinhart’s hat trick highlighted Friday’s victory over Boston, which had defeated the Sabres in its previous two games.

“I was very happy and impressed with our guys,” interim Buffalo coach Don Granato said.

“The chatter on the bench was outstanding, the posture on the bench. Just listening to them speak after we gave up a couple of goals and it was close…very commanding voices and initiative taking responses by them. So, that was very nice to see as far as the psychology of it goes.”

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen survived a late Boston goal surge to finish with 36 saves and win his NHL debut for the Sabres on Friday. It’s uncertain if Luukkonen will see action either Sunday night or Tuesday when Buffalo once again takes on the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Teammate Dustin Tokarski (3.23 GAA in 2020-21) has lost his last two starts, and is 0-1-1 with a 3.53 goals-against average, while facing 84 shots, versus the Rangers this season.

Reinhart has recorded two goals with four assists in six games against the Rangers this season.

New York’s Alexis Lafreniere, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 draft, scored his ninth goal Friday. He’s posted two of those goals with an assist against the Sabres this season.

–Field Level Media

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