(Sports Network) - All that stood between the New York Rangers and a playoff berth a season ago was a shootout goal. Ultimately, the bounces went the other way and the club missed out on the postseason for the first time since the lockout.
Living proof that every point matters, the Rangers will try to get their 2010-11 season off on the right foot this evening when they visit the Buffalo Sabres and HSBC Arena.
The Rangers and Flyers met in Philadelphia on the final day of the regular season last year with the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot up for grabs, but it was the Flyers who advanced into the postseason with a 2-1 shootout victory. New York, despite its 38 wins and 87 points, missed out on the postseason for the first time since the 2003-04 campaign.
Still, the Rangers did finish out the regular season with a 7-1-2 mark and will hope that momentum carries over into this year. Another training camp under head coach John Tortorella, who is entering his second full season as New York's bench boss, should also help.
"I think it's just familiarity with me and me with them," Tortorella said on Wednesday when asked why he has confidence in his team heading into the regular season. "I think just being together; and last year we had to make adjustments with our team concept as far as what we thought we be effective for us. ... Some new guys here are learning it, but most of the team understands that."
It didn't take Marian Gaborik long to excel under Tortorella as he matched a career-high with 42 goals last year while posting a personal-best 86 points. The forward also stayed relatively healthy, skating in 76 games.
Joining the likes of Gaborik, Brandon Dubinsky and super-pest Sean Avery up front will be new-comers Alex Frolov and Ruslan Fedotenko.
Frolov is coming off just a 19-goal, 51-point performance with the Kings last year, while Fedotenko didn't sign with the Rangers until Monday. They will both be needed to contribute right away with Vinny Prospal (right knee) and Chris Drury (broken left finger) both opening the season on injured reserve.
New York's forwards will have support behind them in form of defensemen Michael Del Zotto and Marc Staal, as well as one of the top netminders in the game in Henrik Lundqvist. The Rangers netminder played in a career-high 73 games last year and went 25-27-10 with a 2.38 goals-against average while also playing for Team Sweden in the Olympic Winter Games.
New York will have one noticeable absence on the blue line after placing the disappointing Wade Redden on waivers. Signed to a six-year, $39 million contract prior to 2008-09, Redden cleared and was assigned to the American Hockey League.
Former Sabre Tim Kennedy, who joined the Rangers this offseason, also cleared waivers earlier this week, but he should be in the lineup against his old club this evening.
The defending Northeast Division-champion Sabres got their schedule off to a good start on Friday night as they knocked off the Senators, 2-1. Derek Roy scored both goals, including the game-winner on the power play with 9:48 left in the third period.
Rookie Tyler Ennis assisted on both goals and reigning Vezina Trophy winner Ryan Miller stopped 25-of-26 shots faced for Buffalo, which plays its next four at home and went 25-10-6 as the host last year.
The Sabres have won three straight and six of their last eight over the Rangers, though the clubs have split their last six meetings in Buffalo.