Rangers, Sabres meet looking for first win
So, it is no surprise that both will be looking for their first win of the season when they meet Saturday in Buffalo after losing their respective season openers at home on Thursday.
The Rangers lost 3-2 to the Nashville Predators, while the Sabres were defeated 4-0 by the Boston Bruins, who were hurting from their 7-0 loss to the Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals in their season opener on Wednesday.
The Rangers played in the closer game, but that did not seem to impress their new coach, David Quinn.
“I didn’t think we really played to the level that we’re looking for,” Quinn said. “Obviously, we are up against a team (Nashville) that’s one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup, so it was certainly a great test. I just thought we were hesitant, I didn’t think we hounded the puck like we did in the preseason. It’s probably the most odd-man rushes we gave up in any game we’ve played. We’ve just got to be harder on the puck. We’ve got to do a better job of playing ‘in your face’ hockey.”
There was even less for the Sabres to celebrate. They are supposed to be different this season with a playoff push considered a possibility after so many seasons in the NHL wilderness. But on Thursday they were booed off the ice after the first period when they fell behind 2-0.
“Was it disappointing in front of a good crowd that was here to support us?” Sabres coach Phil Housley asked. “You’re dang right. It’s disappointing. So, what can we control? We can control how we come to the rink (Friday) and work because we are not going through this again.”
Look for both teams to play with more energy on Saturday. Hard work and accountability have been the theme for Quinn since he took over. The Sabres, meanwhile, will not want to disappoint the home fans again after a preseason that produced some optimism.
“Obviously, we want our fans to appreciate our effort,” said Sabres center Jack Eichel, who was playing his first game as the team captain on Thursday. “In the same sense, we’ve got to be better for them and put a better product on the ice. We’ve got to bear down, score goals. We’ve got to bring it for them. Their fuse is a bit short for us and rightfully so. We haven’t played well the past few years so that’s on us to put a better product on the ice.”
The Sabres will be trying to take a more direct route to the goal as they try to score their first goal of the season, let alone win. They took only six shots in the first period Thursday and finished the game with 32 on the strength of 15 third-period shots when they Bruins had control of the game.
“We’ve got to think shot,” Housley said. “We overpassed the puck way too much (Thursday). That’s not our game. Our game is straightforward, playing north, get pucks behind the other team, shoot the puck and then we’ve got to get net-front presence.”
The Rangers’ best line in their loss consisted of Kevin Hayes, Jimmy Vesey and Mats Zuccarello. Vesey failed to score on two good chances and Zuccarello was stopped by Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne three times on close-in chances. Hayes led the Rangers with four hits.
“It’s a tough one, the home opener,” Zuccarello said. “I wish we had a better result, but at the end of the day, I liked our compete effort. The effort was there; everyone wanted to show themselves off. I had some chances and we had a bunch of chances to win this game.”
The Rangers were 3-0-0 against Buffalo last season.