Luukkonen gets second start in three games

Will Borgen returns to the lineup on Tuesday for Colin Miller

(WGR 550) – Buffalo Sabres goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen will get his second NHL start on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers.

Luukkonen gave up four goals in his debut, which was a 6-4 win over the Boston Bruins on Friday. Don Granato hopes that the team plays better on Tuesday than they did against the Rangers on Sunday.

“I just hope we help him as best we can and allow him to kind of absorb and get into the moment himself,” the Sabres interim head coach said following the morning skate.

Luukkonen was cool under fire against the Bruins. Three goals went in due to bad circumstances, but he never flinched.

“Even though it’s the second game, there’s still the pressure,” Granato said. “You get a win, you’re in New York City against a team that we didn’t have a lot of success with the other night, so there’s definitely pressure.”

Buffalo is 2-3-2 against the Rangers this season, giving up 24 goals. Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider and Kaapo Kakko have scored four each against Buffalo, while Artemi Panarin has three goals and seven assists for 10 points in six games.

Adam Fox is the NHL’s top-scoring defenseman, and he has 10 assists and 11 points against Buffalo.

Under Granato, the Sabres have usually played poorly in the first game of the series and then improved by quite a bit in the second game. Granato said it’s more familiarity once they’ve seen the first game.

“You can look at film, you can reflect and you gained the experience of going through it once,” he said. “We target areas we can make improvements on, and it’s the teams that adjust the best that end up on top.”

The Sabres have lost three of four games, but have scored nine goals in their last two games. They have power play goals in four of their last six games, which is their best streak since late February.

In his last 17 games, Sam Reinhart has 10 goals and five assists for 15 points.

Casey Mittelstadt has eight goals and 12 points in his last 15 games.

Rasmus Dahlin has 11 points in 13 games.

Carter Hutton seemed like he was close to coming back for the Sabres, but Granato said that’s no longer the case.

“Hutton had a setback, so what that means I don’t have clarification on it,” he said.

“We are not going to say that he’s out for the year and won’t play one of the final couple of games. He still has a chance of that, but it’s more of a question.”

Will Borgen will be back in the lineup for Colin Miller. The rest of the lineup will be the same as Sunday.

The Sabres will face Igor Shesterkin in goal again. Against Buffalo this season, he’s 4-0-1 with a 2.12 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage.

The Rangers haven’t had to travel very far lately. From April 6 until May 5, they will play 17-straight games in the New York Metropolitan area. They are home at MSG for 11 games, they’re in Long Island for four games against the New York Islanders and have two games in Newark against the New Jersey Devils.

In his last 24 games, Zibanejad has 16 goals and 20 assists for 36 points. In his last 32 games, Fox has 35 assist and 39 points, while Panarin has 17 goals and 39 assists for 56 points in just 38 games.

Jacob Trouba will miss his fourth game with an upper-body injury.

Join Schopp and the Bulldog for pregame coverage on WGR starting at 6 p.m. ET when they’ll be joined by Granato, Luukkonen and Borgen.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig - USA TODAY Sports