Buffalo Sabres Face Nationally Televised Test Versus Capitals


The Buffalo Sabres kick off this week with a bang, beginning with tonight’s nationally-televised bout with the Washington Capitals at First Niagara Center. Tonight’s game is the first of a back-to-back set, as the Sabres will then travel to Boston for a St. Patrick’s Day matchup with the Bruins on Tuesday evening.

The Sabres head into tonight’s game off the heels of Saturday’s 2-0 loss to the New York Rangers. Though the end result was a loss, it was a close stretch, even at zero until partly through the third period. The Sabres were largely able to maintain a hard-working Rangers team, but just didn’t put together the two points.

Meanwhile, tonight’s game is the second half of a back-to-back series for the Caps, who hosted the Bruins on Sunday night. Washington came away with a 2-0 victory thanks to goals from John Carlson and Nate Schmidt.

Tonight’s game is the start of a three-game road trip for the Capitals.

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Coming into tonight’s game, the Washington Capitals have an overall record of 37-23-10 and 84 points, good for 7th in the Eastern Conference. That’s 40 points ahead of the last-place Buffalo Sabres, with their dismal 19-43-6 record and 44 points.

Overall, the Sabres are 12-19-3 at home this season, while the Capitals are 17-12-5 on the road.

Tonight’s game is the third and final meeting between the Sabres and the Capitals this year. It’s also the second time these teams are meeting in a span of 10 days — dating back to the 6-1 loss to the Capitals in D.C. on March 6.

One interesting storyline heading into tonight’s game: each of the last three games between these two teams in Buffalo have been decided in overtime or a shootout. Will that remain true after tonight’s contest?

On a general note, six of the last eight games between the Sabres and Caps have been decided by one goal.

Players to watch tonight for the Buffalo Sabres include center Tyler Ennis, the team’s leading point-scorer. Ennis has 37 points on the season and has a solid track record against the Capitals, putting up 11 points (2-9) in his last nine games versus Washington.

Sabres captain Brian Gionta leads all Buffalo skaters with 24 points in 37 games against the Capitals in his NHL career, and yet again, Nicolas Deslauriers continues to rank ninth league-wide in hits (217). Finally, Matt Moulson has 10 points in his last 11 games and eight points in his last 10 home games.

Two players notably missing from tonight’s lineup for the Sabres will be defensemen Zach Bogosian and Andrej Meszaros. A call-up from the Rochester Americans is expected prior to tonight’s game, with Chad Ruhwedel the likely option. (Mark Pysyk and Jake McCabe are both out.)

For the Capitals, as always, Alexander Ovechkin is the player to watch, with 45 goals and 26 assists for 75 points in 69 games this season. But also keep an eye on center Nicklas Backstrom, who’s matched Ovechkin’s 71 points in one fewer game. Backstrom is a dangerous player with 53 assists on the season.

Defenseman John Carlson has 47 points (11-36) this season, while left winger Marcus Johnasson and defenseman Mike Green each have 38 points on the year.

Overall, one key point where the Sabres will have to be careful tonight: penalties. The Capitals are dangerous with the man advantage. Ovechkin and Backstrom, combined, have accounted for 60 power-play points this season.

The entire Buffalo Sabres team has only recorded 38 power-play points this year. Yikes.

After tonight’s game, the Buffalo Sabres have just 13 games remaining on the schedule for the 2014-2015 season. Next up, it’ll be time to put our full focus on the NHL Draft and the excitement that lies ahead.

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