Lundqvist was given the night off on Friday and it showed, as the Rangers were on the wrong end of a 4-3 shootout loss to the Islanders. Marc Staal, Marian Gaborik and Derek Stepan lit the lamp for the Rangers, who have dropped three of their last four games.
"Very sloppy hockey game. We were a very sloppy hockey club. We're forgetting how we have to do things," Rangers head coach John Tortorella said.
Marty Biron started in place of Lundqvist and made 24 saves.
After the teams traded goals in the first round and misses in the second and third, the Isles' Matt Moulson skated down the center of the ice and snapped a wrister past the stick side of Biron. The Rangers' John Mitchell had a chance to keep the shootout going, but his five-hole attempt was turned aside by Evgeni Nabokov.
The Rangers, who still lead the Eastern Conference with 82 points, had rallied from two, two-goal deficits.
"We didn't have the start we wanted to," Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. "If we want to be a complete team we know we have to start better."
Tonight, though, Lundqvist returns. The All-Star netminder is in the midst of finest year as a pro, leading the league with seven shutouts and ranking second with a 1.78 goals-against average. He's also won eight of his last 10 starts and has three shutouts in that span.
Buffalo, meanwhile, enters tonight's tilt riding a three-game winning streak thanks to some impressive play between the pipes for its own netminder. On Friday, Ryan Miller turned aside 35 shots and Derek Roy scored in the fourth round of the shootout leading the Sabres to a 2-1 win over the Boston Bruins.
"We were on our heels for parts of the game, but I thought we weathered it well then dug in our heels," said Buffalo head coach Lindy Ruff. "They created some real good chances that we wanted to stay away from, but I thought our guys did pretty good overall."
Miller has posted a 1.30 GAA over the winning streak and could be back between the pipes tonight thanks to wins in his last four games at MSG.
The Rangers have beaten the Sabres twice already this season, but Buffalo has won three of four and four of six as the visitor in this series.