Preview: Sabres seek redemption in Washington
After dropping two close contests with the Capitals to start the year, Buffalo will seek payback against their COVID-struck rivals
Buffalo Sabres (1-3-0) vs. Washington Capitals (2-0-2)
Puck Drop: 7:00 PM EST | Capital One Arena | Washington, D.C.
Radio: WGR 550
SB Nation Capitals Blog: Jasper’s Rink
Know Your Opponent
Record: (2-0-2) | 6 PTS
Division Ranking: 3rd in East Division
PP: T-9th (25.0%)
PK: 15th (81.3%)
1. Chance to Even Things Up
From a standings perspective, the Sabres are off to a rough start. Fortunately, they could just as easily be 3-1-0, had a few minor things gone their way. In their first two games of the year, Buffalo fell short in two closely-contested matchups with the Capitals.
Despite carrying an expected-goal advantage of nearly 59-percent through that two-game tilt, the Sabres collected zero points. They also took a very conservative, low-event approach the first time around. Ralph Krueger’s tactical approach he took during the Washington series took a 180-degree turn against the Philadelphia Flyers earlier this week.
If Buffalo can keep up the aggressive forechecking strategy we saw in Philadelphia, they should make easy work of the COVID-struck Capitals. Speaking of which....
2. Washington is Shorthanded
Yesterday, news broke that four Capitals players had been added to the COVID-19 protocol list after exposure to netminder Ilya Samsonov, who later tested positive.
Capitals coach Peter Laviolette says four COVID-19 protocol players -- Alex Ovechkin, Ilya Samsonov, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitry Orlov -- are in quarantine and he believes they'll miss the next four games.— Stephen Whyno (@SWhyno) January 21, 2021
Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov, and Samsonov himself are all major losses for Washington. Without one-third of their offensive top-six, half of their top defensive tandem, and their starting netminder, there is no excuse for the Sabres not to prevail in both contests this weekend.
3. Goaltending, Goaltending, Goaltending
As was the case last week, both sides will need strong play between the pipes in order to emerge victorious. Depending on whether or not Linus Ullmark will play following the loss of his father this week, we could see Jonas Johansson or Dustin Tokarski get some action. The Sabres’ usual backup, Carter Hutton’s status is also up in the air after taking a hit to the head that caused him to lose his helmet against the Flyers earlier this week.
Washington will also rely on their reserve netminder, Vitek Vanecek. In the second part of the Sabres’ back-to-back with the Capitals to start the year, the rookie netminder was sensational, stopping 30 of the 31 shots he faced. Buffalo will need to find a way to solve the 25-year-old this time around.
Taylor Hall - Jack Eichel - Sam Reinhart
Victor Olofsson - Eric Staal - Tage Thompson
Jeff Skinner - Curtis Lazar - Riley Sheahan
Tobias Rieder - Cody Eakin - Dylan Cozens
Jake McCabe - Rasmus Ristolainen
Rasmus Dahlin - Brandon Montour
Colin Miller - Henri Jokiharju
Starter: Linus Ullmark
Jakub Vrana - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Richard Panik - Lars Eller - T.J. Oshie
Carl Hagelin - Nic Dowd - Garnet Hathaway
Daniel Sprong - Brian Pinho - Conor Sheary
Brenden Dillon - John Carlson
Jonas Siegenthaler - Justin Schultz
Zdeno Chara - Nick Jensen
Starter: Vitek Vanecek