NEW YORK (AP) — After a successful southern road swing began their current run, the Buffalo Sabres hope to stay hot at the beginning of an even longer trip.
The Sabres will try to extend their longest winning streak of the season on Sunday night as they open a four-game trek against the New York Rangers, who snapped their four-game skid in Rick Nash’s return.
Buffalo lost a season-worst four in a row – including its first two under interim coach Ron Rolston after Lindy Ruff was fired – before starting its turnaround with a win at Tampa Bay on Feb. 26 and then topping Florida 4-3 in a shootout on Thursday.
The Sabres (9-12-1) beat visiting New Jersey by the same score in the tiebreaker on Saturday for their first three-game winning streak since capturing five straight last March 19-27.
“It certainly feels better to win. But we’ve got a lot of work,” goalie Ryan Miller said. “I don’t want anybody in this room or organization to get comfortable.”
Jason Pominville had one goal in his previous 11 games before scoring twice against the Devils. Cody Hodgson added two assists, while Jochen Hecht ended a 32-game drought with his first goal of the season.
Leading scorer Thomas Vanek missed the contest with an upper-body injury, but is expected to play against the Rangers. Vanek, however, has one goal in his last nine games overall and one in his last 12 in this series.
The Sabres have also received almost zero production recently from their power play, converting 3 of 54 opportunities in their last 15 games. It isn’t likely to get any easier against a New York team that has killed 27 of 29 penalties over its last 10.
Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist finished with 24 saves and won for the first time in four starts in a 4-1 victory over Tampa Bay on Thursday. Lundqvist, though, has lost four of five home starts with a 2.78 goals-against average against the Sabres.
It hardly seems like a coincidence the Rangers stopped their skid as soon as Nash returned to the lineup. He finished with a goal and an assist on a career-high 12 shots against the Lightning.
New York (9-8-2) went 0-3-1 in the four games Nash was out with what was believed to be concussion-like symptoms.
The Rangers averaged 27.3 shots in the four games without Nash, but have averaged 40.3 in the last three the star forward has played. Nash, who ranks among the NHL leaders with 4.6 shots per game, had six goals in his last seven games against the Sabres while he was with Columbus.
“We have to get streaky,” Nash said. “I think if we just build momentum off (this win) and carry it into the next one … we were doing a lot of good things, so I think we’ll be fine.”
Carl Hagelin, who is tied for the team lead with seven goals, and Derek Stepan also scored against the Lightning. Defenseman Marc Staal added only the eighth power-play goal in 67 chances for the Rangers.
Even though they’re finishing back-to-back games, the Sabres could start Miller again on Sunday. Miller, who won his third straight start on Saturday, is 1-2-0 with a 2.35 GAA at the end of back-to-backs this season.
Miller is also 5-0-1 with a 1.64 GAA in his last six trips to Madison Square Garden.
His most recent there was a 4-1 victory on March 23, Buffalo’s only win in last season’s series as the Rangers took three of four.
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