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Preview: Sabres look for redemption against Caps

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Washington visits Buffalo as both teams come off of tough losses.

NHL: Washington Capitals at Buffalo Sabres Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Game 39

Buffalo Sabres (9-24-6) vs. Washington Capitals (25-11-4)

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

TV: MSG-B

Radio: WGR 550

SB Nation Capitals Blog: Japers’ Rink

Know Your Opponent

Washington Capitals

Record: (25-11-4) | 54 PTS

Division Ranking: 1st in East Division

PP: 8th (24%)

PK: 7th (82.9%)

1. Score Some Goals

Obviously, you have to score to win, but it will be even more important tonight when the Sabres host Washington, a team they have only defeated once this season (in a shootout, respectively). The last time these two teams met, Ralph Krueger was still the head coach and Buffalo took a beating with a 6-0 loss at home. Another obvious point: the Caps are an elite team and the Sabres’ defense will be working overtime. Washington has averaged 3.4 goals in away games over the last three seasons - which is tied with Tampa for the second most in the league. Additionally, Alexander Ovechkin just became the eighth player in NHL history with over 16 consecutive seasons with 20+ goals. Good luck, Buffalo!

2. Third Period Slump

While it is not every game, it is often enough that the Sabres seem to give up shooting the puck in the third period. When it comes to shots, they are top heavy in the first 40 minutes and then something mysterious happens to their momentum in the third period - it disappears. In their last game against New Jersey, they tallied only two shots in the final period and the second shot was only after the goaltender was pulled. It would be nice to see a full 60 minutes again, especially on home ice.

It will also be interesting to see how Washington and Buffalo look - both suffering tough losses the previous night.

3. The Granato Effect

Jeff Skinner seems to be more, uh, like himself? Since the release of Krueger and being granted more ice time (a crazy concept), interim coach Don Granato has been determined to utilize his team to further reach their potential and this most definitely includes Skinner. The forward is coming off of a great backhanded goal Thursday night and fans should expect this to continue for the remainder of the season. Is he showing that he is worth $9+ million? Absolutely not, but there is at least a sign of life in him now and no matter what side of the Skinner fence you are on, he can be very fun to watch.

Another notable improvement on the ice is Rasmus Dahlin. Previously looking like a lost puppy under Krueger, he has displayed more focus as of late. With his assist to Skinner’s goal last night, he now has 100 points in 180 games. At 20 years old (he will turn 21 on April 13), Dahlin is the youngest Swedish defenseman in NHL history to reach 100 career points. He seems to be heading in the right direction with the new and improved coaching. Let’s hope it continues!

Projected Lineups

Buffalo Sabres

Forwards

Rasmus Asplund - Casey Mittelstadt - Tage Thompson

Victor Olofsson - Sam Reinhart - Kyle Okposo

Tobias Rieder - Cody Eakin - Steven Fogarty

Jeff Skinner - Riley Sheahan

Defense

Jacob Bryson - Rasmus Ristolainen

Rasmus Dahlin - Henri Jokiharju

Colin Miller - Brandon Montour

Matt Irwin

Starting Goaltender: Linus Ullmark

Washington Capitals

Forwards

Alexander Ovechkin - Lars Eller - T.J. Oshie

Conor Sheary - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson

Jakub Vrana - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Daniel Carr

Carl Hagelin - Nic Dowd - Garnet Hathaway

Defense

Dmitry Orlov - John Carlson

Brenden Dillon - Justin Schultz

Zdeno Chara - Nick Jensen

Starting Goaltender: Vitek Vanecek (expected)