New York Rangers veteran Rick Nash is starting to heat up while Buffalo Sabres young star Jack Eichel provided an undeniable spark in his season debut. Both forwards look to keep surging ahead on Thursday as the Metropolitan Division-leading Rangers travel to the western side of the Empire State to visit the Atlantic Division cellar-dwelling Sabres.
Nash scored and set up a goal in the third period of New York’s 3-2 victory over Carolina on Tuesday to increase his point total to five (three goals, two assists) in his last five games. “I think when you’re a leader and you’re expected to be one of the top players, you try to do that every night,” the 32-year-old Nash said. “Some nights it’s there, some nights it’s not. ... But I know that’s part of my game, that I have to help these guys and lift them when things aren’t going right.” The 20-year-old Eichel stepped right up in his return from a 21-game absence due to a high ankle sprain, collecting a goal and an assist in the first period of Buffalo’s 5-4 victory over Ottawa on Tuesday. The offensive outburst was a welcome sight for the low-scoring Sabres, who have mustered two goals or fewer in their previous 13 contests.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, MSG (New York), MSG-B (Buffalo)
ABOUT THE RANGERS (16-7-1): Henrik Lundqvist shut the door after allowing two first-period goals on Tuesday and looks to continue his recent success against Buffalo, versus which he owns an impressive 6-0-0 mark with a 2.05 goals-against average in his last seven appearances. Forwards Mats Zuccarello and Jesper Fast also fared well against the Sabres - albeit in a smaller sample size. The duo each recorded four points as New York won two of the three meetings last season, with Zuccarello scoring two goals and setting up two others while Fast had a tally and three assists
ABOUT THE SABRES (8-9-5): Right wings Kyle Okposo and Sam Reinhart each scored a goal and set up another versus the Senators and each have recorded two goals and three assists in the past four games. Anders Nilsson will get the nod on Thursday after fellow goaltender Robin Lehner sustained a hip injury against Ottawa. “I don’t have any further update other than what we gave (Tuesday) night, it’s hip and it’s day-to-day,” coach Dan Bylsma said on Wednesday. “He’s lobbying to backup (Thursday) but he’s going to see how it is in the morning.”
1. Buffalo C Ryan O‘Reilly scored twice versus Ottawa and also scored his lone two career goals against New York in the last encounter (10 meetings).
2. Nash has recorded 12 goals and 18 points in 19 career encounters versus the Sabres.
3. Eichel has recorded a point in each of his last six games (two goals, six assists) dating to last season.
PREDICTION: Rangers 4, Sabres 2