The New York Rangers looked like a much different team with Rick Nash back in the lineup and the club will try to string together back-to- back wins on Sunday night in a matchup with the surging Buffalo Sabres.
Nash, the Rangers' big offseason acquisition, missed four straight games with an undisclosed injury and New York went 0-3-1 in that span to post its longest losing streak of the season.
The big forward returned for Thursday's home game with the Tampa Bay Lightning and was a force, picking up a goal and an assist while unleashing 12 shots on goal in a 4-1 win. The 28-year-old Nash has points in each of the last five games in which he has appeared, logging two goals and five assists.
"When you get a guy like (Nash) back, everyone wants to bring their level up to where he is, which is tough - he is one of the best players in the league," Rangers forward Carl Hagelin remarked. "You can see how he brings size, and how the other team really respects him and starts playing tentative around him."
Hagelin, Derek Stepan and Marc Staal also had goals for a Rangers team that received a solid 24-save effort from Henrik Lundqvist and also saw defenseman Ryan McDonagh return from a one-game absence caused by a facial laceration and pick up two assists.
Fellow blueliner Michael Del Zotto, meanwhile, played for the first time in three games after battling a lower body injury.
The Rangers will need to be sharp on Sunday as they face a Sabres club that has won three straight for the first time this season, good enough for its longest winning streak since taking five in a row from March 19-27 of last season.
Following a two-game sweep through Florida, Buffalo returned home to post a 4-3 shootout win over the New Jersey Devils on Saturday.
The Sabres were without leading scorer Thomas Vanek due to an upper body injury, but Jason Pominville picked up the slack with two goals in regulation and another in the shootout. Tyler Ennis also scored in the breakaway session, while Ryan Miller stopped both skaters he faced after posting 28 saves through overtime.
"We're getting more resilient as a team now and I think that's a good sign for us," said Buffalo interim head coach Ron Rolston following his fifth game since taking over for Lindy Ruff.
Johan Hecht also scored in regulation and Cody Hodgson had two assists to give him 16 points in his past 16 games.
The Sabres now begin a four-game road trip and are likely to have Vanek back in the lineup for this game.
The Sabres lost three of four versus the Rangers last season, but have won four of their last six in New York.