TheMessiah Posted October 14, 2006 Share Posted October 14, 2006 Rangers eye a big conference test in Buffalo When the Rangers take the ice in Buffalo at 7 p.m. tonight, their opponents will look a lot like the Sabres of the 1970s -- both literally and figuratively. The literal part involves the Buffalo uniforms. This season, Buffalo has redesigned its uniforms while shifting its colors back to the blue and gold that the team wore from 1970 to 1996. Tonight, however, the Sabres will take it one step further -- wearing the actual 1970s-era uniforms as part of a Retro-Night promotion at HSBC Arena. It's the first of 15 Retro Nights the Sabres have planned this season, and the Rangers have the honor of being the first opponent. The figurative part involves Buffalo's style of play. Back in the 1970s, the Sabres were a high-flying, high-scoring team with exceptional depth at forward and an outstanding goaltending tandem. That would be a good description for today's Sabres as well. Buffalo, off to a 4-0 start with three shootout wins in the young 2006-07 season, is loaded with speedy forwards built to thrive in the new-era NHL. They also have two excellent, interchangeable goaltenders in Ryan Miller and Martin Biron. On a night when the Sabres plan to go retro and turn back the clock by decades, the Rangers would do well to turn it back by just a few games. After two disappointing losses at Madison Square Garden, the Blueshirts are determined to recapture the rhythm that marked their first two wins over Washington and Philadelphia. Beating Buffalo, ranked by many preseason experts as the Eastern Conference's top team, would be a major lift heading into two more games at The Garden. Victory won't come easily, however. Although the Sabres are young and have almost no household names on their roster, they do have an enormously talented lineup that went all the way to Game 7 of last season's conference finals before losing to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Hurricanes. Leading the way on offense for the Sabres are forwards Daniel Briere, Chris Drury, Maxim Afinogenov, Jochen Hecht, Ales Kotalik, and Thomas Vanek. Second-year player Jason Pominville is also off to a fast start with two goals in his first four games. The Sabres' defense is equally capable, led by 38-year-old Teppo Numminen, who is by far the oldest player on the team. Like the Rangers, Buffalo returns a vast majority of players from last season, including goalie Miller, who challenged Henrik Lundqvist as the top rookie netminder for much of the year. Miller had three starts against the Rangers last season, allowing only six goals and picking up a pair of wins. Miller has started three of Buffalo's first three games this season, including Friday night's shootout win in Detroit, and he has stopped 96 of 103 shots. Biron started his team's third game at Ottawa and came away with 34 saves in a 4-3 victory. Last season, the Blueshirts and Rangers played a tight, four-game series that featured two overtime shootouts. The Sabres outscored the Rangers in those games by a slim 11-10 margin, and Jaromir Jagr led all scorers with six points. Perhaps the most entertaining game of the four 2005-06 meetings was the last one on March 27 at Madison Square Garden. In that game, the Rangers scored twice in the third period to overcome a 4-2 deficit en route to a 5-4 shootout win. This season's series between the teams should be even more wide-open, as both clubs appear to have made big strides offensively. The Rangers, in particular, have shown even greater ease at putting the puck in the net. With 16 goals in their first four games, this Rangers team has scored more times at this early stage of the season than any team since the 1993-94 Stanley Cup champions. Half of the Rangers' 16 goals have been scored by players who weren't on the roster last season. Brendan Shanahan, Adam Hall and Matt Cullen have already become major players in the Rangers offense and are three reasons the Sabres can expect to see a very different look -- particularly on the power-play -- than what they saw from the Rangers last year. It all adds up to what should be a very entertaining hockey game in Buffalo – a chance for two of the East's top teams to send a message to the rest of the conference about how they stack up against a fellow conference powerhouse. STANDINGS: Sabres - 8 points, 1st place, Northeast Division. Rangers - 4 points, 1st place (tied), Atlantic Division. TEAM LEADERS: Sabres - Drury, 3 goals and 5 points; Hecht and Briere, 3 assists each; Jiri Novotny, 8 PIM. Rangers – Shanahan, 4 goals; Jagr, 6 assists and 9 points; Jagr, 8 PIM. 2005-06 SEASON SERIES: 2-2. LAST MEETING: March 27; Rangers 5-4 (SO). At New York. The Rangers came back from a 4-2 deficit by scoring twice in the third period. Jaromir Jagr notched the game-tying goal at 10:16, tying Adam Graves' former team record of 52 goals in one season. The Rangers scored the shootout's lone goal for a 5-4 win. ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Sabres -- 1-0 at home; Rangers -- 1-0 on the road. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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