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Sabres look to stop the bleeding against Capitals

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Losers of six straight, Buffalo will have another tough test as they host Washington

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

Game 69

Buffalo Sabres (29-31-8) vs. Washington Capitals (41-20-7)

Puck Drop: 7:00 PM EST | KeyBank Center | Buffalo, NY

TV: MSG-B

Radio: WGR 550

SB Nation Capitals Blog: Jasper’s Rink

Know Your Opponent

Washington Capitals

Record: 41-20-7 | 89 PTS

Last 10: 4-4-2

Division Ranking: 1st in the Metropolitan Division

Conference Ranking: 3rd in Eastern Conference

PP: 17th (19.5%)

PK: 5th (82.8%)

What to Watch

1. The March Massacre Continues

Even if the Sabres had managed to collect a string of victories to close out the month of February, their March schedule would have still been a daunting task, to say the least. After losing their sixth-straight game against the red-hot Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday evening, the gauntlet continues tonight against the Capitals.

This will be the first of two meetings between these two clubs to close out the final four weeks of the 2019-20 season. With Buffalo now well out of the playoff race (and spiraling), this could be the beginning of a very ugly limp to the finish line. Washington has lost three of their last five games, but are still one of, if not the top team in the Metropolitan Division.

Buckle up.

2. The Return of Ullmark

Fans bemoaned the loss of Linus Ullmark when he was sidelined following their contest against the Ottawa Senators on January 28. As expected, the tandem of Carter Hutton and rookie Jonas Johansson fared poorly in his stead, especially as of late. Their combined save-percentage of .902 has helped contribute to Buffalo’s 7-10-1 record since losing Ullmark. While they certainly haven’t been the blue-and-gold’s biggest problem, they haven’t been part of the solution either.

If there’s any rust to shake-off, the 26-year-old will need to do it in short order. Washington trails only the Tampa Bay Lightning in goals-scored this season with 238 through 68 games.

3. More Shakeups at Forward?

Against the Flyers, fans saw reunion of the Jeff Skinner, Jack Eichel, and Sam Reinhart line at the top of the roster. While that trio was left off the score sheet, it remains to be seen whether Ralph Krueger gives them another go tonight. Conversely, the combination of Marcus Johansson, Dominik Kahun, and Victor Olofsson experienced some success in their first outing together, scoring the team’s only goal in the contest.

With the season all but lost, now is the time for Krueger to start experimenting and collecting data for next season. The status quo isn’t working, hasn’t worked in some time, and the Sabres current standing certainly warrants a new approach. We’ll see whether or not the coach gets creative. At this point, what does he really have to lose?

Projected Lineups

Buffalo Sabres

Forwards

Jeff Skinner - Jack Eichel - Sam Reinhart

Victor Olofsson - Marcus Johansson - Dominik Kahun

Zemgus Girgensons - Johan Larsson - Kyle Okposo

Jimmy Vesey - Curtis Lazar - Wayne Simmonds

Defense

Brandon Montour - Rasmus Ristolainen

Jake McCabe - Henri Jokiharju

Rasmus Dahlin - Colin Miller

Starting Goaltender: Linus Ullmark

Washington Capitals

Forwards

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson

Jakub Vrana - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie

Carl Hagelin - Lars Eller - Ilya Kovalchuk

Richard Panik - Nic Dowd - Garnet Hathaway

Defense

Brenden Dillon - John Carlson

Dmitri Orlov - Nick Jensen

Michal Kempny - Jonas Siegenthaler