Puck Drop: 7:00 PM EST | Capital One Arena | Washington, D.C.
Radio: WGR 550
SB Nation Capitals Blog: Japers’ Rink
Know Your Opponent
Division Ranking: 4th in the East Division
PP: 4th (30.6%)
PK: 12th (81.2%)
What to Watch
There are many scary things to comment on with this franchise as of late, but I doubt anyone is looking to read a thesis here. However, there are some serious issues that need to be addressed. Aside from some cringe-worthy goaltending (probably not correctable at this point in time) and the absence of goals, the passing on this team is atrocious. It has been so for a while, but what was really noticeable against the Islanders on Tuesday night were two huge red flags: the offsides that cost them their only goal and their inability to get the puck out of their own zone with the extra man in the final minutes of the game. It was truly like watching a horror movie that was impossible to look away from. Hopefully, the boys can clean this up tonight.
On a more positive side note, there are no Sabres players in COVID protocol anymore. Little victories.
2. Score First (Or at All), For the Love of God
While this season is obviously short and the Sabres just suffered the wrath of poorly managed COVID-19 protocols, they have only scored first in three games this season. This is huge. Buffalo clearly has struggled with making comebacks after being down by a goal or two and it has cost them games - plural. And, not to add salt to the wound, but Buffalo has just seven regulation wins in their last 33 games. Their top stars - Jack Eichel, Jeff Skinner, and Taylor Hall - have combined forces to score a whopping three goals. I guess that is what $27 million gets you these days.
Score first tonight and they may just have a chance in restoring what little faith fans have left in them, and, maybe even winning a game.
3. Washington’s Elite
Top forward Nicklas Backstrom leads his team with seven goals and 12 assists, so other than “Ovechtrick,” he is always one to keep an eye on for speed and getting pucks to the net. In their last 10 games, Washington has averaged 3.4 goals. And, while they showed a bit of a dip with a three-game losing streak, the team is coming off of a big win against their rivals in Pittsburgh on Tuesday night - during which Ovi’s backcheck helped set up the game-winning goal. Tonight’s game is the fifth of eight meetings between Buffalo and Washington and the Caps lead the series so far, 3-0-1.
*Coach Krueger would not provide any lineup information during this morning’s skate, noting “there’s no reason for us to give up our roster until game time.” He added that the team will “remain patient in the way we reintegrate players into our roster. Not all of them are going to come back in tonight.” However, it has been confirmed that Rasmus Ristolainen, while clear to play, is not in Washington and may not make this stretch of road games.
Curtis Lazar, Dylan Cozens, and Casey Mittelstadt will be game-time decisions.
Starting Goaltender: Linus Ullmark (Expected)
Alexander Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - T.J. Oshie
Jakub Vrana - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Conor Sheary - Lars Eller - Richard Panik
Carl Hagelin - Nic Dowd - Garnet Hathaway
Brenden Dillon - John Carlson
Zdeno Chara - Justin Schultz
Dmitry Orlov - Nick Jensen
Starting Goaltender: Vitek Vanecek