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Sabres vs. Capitals preview: Kulikov, Gorges return

The Sabres blue line should get stronger tonight with the return of two injured defensemen.

NHL: Buffalo Sabres at Washington Capitals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Game #27

Buffalo Sabres (10-10-6) vs. Washington Capitals (15-7-3)

Puck drop: 7:00 p.m. EST | KeyBank Center | Buffalo, NY

TV: MSG, CSN-DC | Radio: WGR 550

SB Nation’s Capitals Blog: Jaspers’ Rink

Two Questions

1. How will the Sabres defensemen perform with the return of Kulikov and Gorges?

The Sabres get some healthy bodies back on the blue line tonight with the return from injury of Dmitry Kulikov and Josh Gorges. Kulikov will be paired on the second unit with Cody Franson, while Gorges mercifully will be partnered with Justin Falk on the third pairing, leaving Ristolainen and McCabe as the top dogs.

Kulikov and Gorges are effectively taking the spots of Burgdoerfer and Guhle, who were both sent back to their respective clubs today. While the youngster Guhle played well in his short time in the NHL, trading two proven NHL defensemen for unproven minor league guys is an upgrade, no matter your feelings on Gorges vs. Guhle.

Will the two returning defensemen show any signs of rust tonight, or will the new pairings cause any confusion in assignments? We’ll have to see tonight.

2. Will the Sabres beat the Caps this season?

After losing twice to Washington earlier this season, tonight is the Sabres last chance to beat the Caps this year. The second loss, a 3-2 come-from-behind overtime win for Washington, was especially heartbreaking, but the Sabres are as close to fully healthy as they’ve been all season. Will fresh troops cure the Caps curse?

Projected BUF Lines

48 William Carrier - 90 Ryan O’Reilly - 21 Kyle Okposo
9 Evander Kane - 15 Jack Eichel - 23 Sam Reinhart
82 Marcus Foligno - 22 Johan Larsson - 12 Brian Gionta
26 Matt Moulson - 27 Derek Grant - 28 Zemgus Girgensons

29 Jake McCabe - 55 Rasmus Ristolainen
77 Dmitry Kulikov - 6 Cody Franson
4 Josh Gorges - 41 Justin Falk

Goal: 40 Robin Lehner