Sabres take on Capitals in game with big playoff implications

Buffalo needs to sort out their home issues against the slumping Washington

Game 58

Buffalo Sabres (30-23-4) vs Washington Capitals (29-26-6)

Puck Drop: 1:00 PM EST | KeyBank Center | Buffalo NY

TV: MSG, ESPN+, NHL Network

Radio: WGR 550

SB Nation Capitals Blog: Japers’ Rink

Know Your Opponent

Washington Capitals

Record: 29-26-6

Last Game: 6-3 win against New York Rangers

Division Ranking: 6th in Metropolitan Division

PP: 21.0% (18th)

PK: 81.8% (9th)

What to Watch For

1. How To Replace Tuch?

First off, a pretty miffed rant directed towards The Hockey Gods™. 24 hours. You gave us but 24 danged hours to celebrate climbing into a playoff berth before slinging us this crap news about the great Alex Tuch. Really, couldn’t let us enjoy that a few more weeks then?

Immediate expectation is that Kyle Okposo steps up into the top line and first power play unit, but there is also an opportunity to be grabbed here for a particular youngster by the name of Jack Quinn.

Word has it that Vinnie Hinostroza is on his way up from Rochester which dashes the hopes of those who thought maybe Jiri Kulich could get a game or two in.

2. Home Barn Advantage?

The Sabres have an absolutely abysmal record at home, 11-15-2 (29th in the league). Which is somewhat puzzling in a season that the natives have rediscovered their love for their hockey team because the players on the ice have reciprocated in a big way. So what is the problem at KeyBank Center?

Can’t say I know all the answers, but right now it does feel like the players’ insecurities and the home crowd’s expectations are feeding off each other in a bad way. The Sabres don’t look as loose at home, and the fans start to get nervous which then seeps onto the ice.

3. Playing Games That Matter

The Sabres are close to the end of February still playing in games that matter, hovering about in the playoff contention spots. This is just a taste of what we have waited so long for. To be playing in meaningful games that then get you playing hockey into late spring and early summer.

For some of us where the Sabres are right now in the standings has come a little sooner than expected, but there’s no doubt the drought has dragged on too long. Today they play the Caps who have been in a swoon for a few weeks now. This is a good chance for Buffalo to start showing that mettle you need to win playoff games. As young as they are, they’ll win a few of these (Hello very recent Florida trip!) and lose some too (cough cough Maple Leafs), but they’re learning and this is a good thing.

Projected Lineups

Buffalo Sabres


Jeff Skinner - Tage Thompson - Kyle Okposo*

JJ Peterka - Dylan Cozens - Victor Olofsson

Casey Mittelstadt - Peyton Krebs - Jack Quinn

Zemgus Girgensons - Tyson Jost - Vinnie Hinostroza


Rasmus Dahlin - Mattias Samuelsson

Owen Power - Henri Jokiharju

Ilya Lyubushkin - Kale Clague

Goaltenders: Craig Anderson, Eric Comrie (projected starter), Ukko Pekka Luukkonen

Scratches: Jacob Bryson

Injuries: Alex Tuch

*Note: Okposo starting off on the top line is just opinion, until we get confirmation otherwise

Washington Capitals


Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson

Sonny Milano - Dylan Strome - T.J. Oshie

Conor Sheary - Nicklas Backstrom - Craig Smith

Lars Eller - Nic Dowd - Nicolas Aube-Kubel


Martin Fehervary - Nick Jensen

Erik Gustafsson - Trevor van Riemsdyk

Matt Irwin - Dylan McIlrath

Goaltenders: Darcy Kuemper (projected starter), Charlie Lindgren

Scratches: Alexander Alexeyev, Aliaksei Protas, Marcus Johansson

Injuries: Carl Hagelin (IR), Connor Brown (IR), John Carlson (IR), Anthony Mantha (DTD)