Buffalo Sabres (0-1-0) vs. Washington Capitals (1-0-0)
Puck Drop: 7:00 PM EST | KeyBank Center | Buffalo, NY
Radio: WGR 550
SB Nation Capitals Blog: Jasper’s Rink
Know Your Opponent
Washington Capitals (2019-20 Rankings)
Record: (41-20-8) | 90 PTS
Division Ranking: 1st in Metropolitan Division
Conference Ranking: 3rd in Eastern Conference
PP: 17th (19.4%)
PK: 6th (82.6%)
What to Watch
1. Second verse? Same as the first!
In what will be a recurring theme this season, the Sabres and Capitals will resume their places at KeyBank Center tonight after a high-scoring affair last night. Same-city back-to-backs are a common theme throughout the NHL this season in order to limit travel in attempt to skirt the Covid-19 pandemic.
So what affect will this have on the game? Well, there will be opportunity for adjustments, redemption, perhaps a little retribution.
Buffalo will have to make some defensive adjustments, especially to the penalty kill, in order to prevent Washington from putting up another six goals on the board. The retribution aspect may create a little intrigue and rivalry, as surely the Sabres have Nic Dowd’s jersey number fresh in their minds after a hit to the head of respected veteran Eric Staal.
2. Sabres sans Staal?
Speaking of Eric Staal, after leaving last night’s game after taking an elbow to the face, he is day-to-day and a game-time decision to play tonight. Center Cody Eakin was the in-game replacement for Staal yesterday, and will likely get first crack at the job tonight.
Eakin played well last night, leading all forwards in corsi-for percentage and expected goals-for percentage, so we’ll see if he can continue that in a larger role this evening. His linemate, rookie Dylan Cozens, also played very well and should perhaps command more ice time. Ralph Krueger also stated that Riley Sheahan, not Cozens, would move to center tonight if Staal can’t go, so Cozens will remain on the wing for the time being.
3. No linemates? No problem!
In an eyebrow-raising move, prized forward Jeff Skinner was moved out of the top six to start the season by Krueger and found himself on a line with defensive forwards Curtis Lazar and Riley Sheahan. So Skinner’s offensive impact would surely be limited right? Actually...wrong.
Skinner was not only strong in both shot quality and shot attempt differential, but also single-handedly created two high-danger scoring chances and led the team in individual expected goals.
Driving lines almost by himself is a familiar role for Skinner from his days in Carolina, so there is no reason to doubt he can continue to find success at 5-on-5 regardless of linemate quality. If he repeats his performance tonight, it will be interesting to see if Krueger finds a restored confidence in him to use in key situations.
Taylor Hall - Jack Eichel - Tage Thompson
Victor Olofsson - Cody Eakin - Sam Reinhart
Jeff Skinner - Curtis Lazar - Rasmus Asplund
Tobias Rieder - Riley Sheahan - Dylan Cozens
Jake McCabe - Rasmus Ristolainen
Rasmus Dahlin - Brandon Montour
Colin Miller - Henri Jokiharju
Starting Goaltender: Linus Ullmark
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Jakub Vrana - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Richard Panik - Lars Eller - Conor Sheary
Carl Hagelin - Nic Dowd - Garnet Hathaway
Dmitri Orlov - John Carlson
Brenden Dillon - Justin Schultz
Zdeno Chara - Nick Jensen
Starting Goaltender: Vitek Vanecek/Ilya Samsonov