BUFFALO – With star goalie Henrik Lundqvist injured, the New York Rangers have been riding backup Cam Talbot for six weeks.
The Rangers gave Talbot one breather, Feb. 20 in Buffalo. After allowing a goal 14 seconds into his NHL debut, unknown rookie Mackenzie Skapski settled down, stopping 24 shots in the Rangers’ 3-1 win against the Sabres.
Skapski should start again Saturday against the Sabres. Despite a 3-6-1 record, the Sabres have scored first in nine of the last 10 games.
They have a terrific opportunity to pounce on Skapski again.
“He played pretty well last time, so I don’t think he’s going to be nervous,” Sabres winger Matt Moulson, who beat Skapski, said this afternoon following an up-tempo practice inside HarborCenter. “I don’t think it matters who’s in the net. You want to throw as many pucks as you can, try to make them feel uncomfortable, whatever that is.”
Why have the Sabres lost so many games after scoring first? Eventually their opponent’s talent becomes too much to handle.
“There’s not much we can do,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. “When (Phil) Kessel decides to turn it up, there’s not much you can do except try to get yourself in better body position. We like our starts. When teams turn it up a notch, we got to learn to defend better. You watch practice today, that’s exactly what we tried to key on.”
Meanwhile, Nolan said he hasn’t picked a goalie for Saturday, the Sabres’ first home game since Feb. 26.
The banged-up Sabres have one more injury. No one has been spared this season. Assistant coach Tom Coolen was wearing a walking boot today and stayed off the ice.
“I don’t know what that is,” Nolan joked.