Sabres get another shot against Capitals
In that 4-3 defeat on Dec. 15, Buffalo couldn’t figure out a way to slow Alexander Ovechkin, who netted the tying goal and registered the shootout winner. Stopping the Capitals’ veteran would again seem to be the primary goal for Buffalo, which is coming off a 5-2 loss to the Panthers in which they lost for the first time all season when leading after two periods.
“I really liked the way our guys played,” Sabres coach Phil Housley told reporters after practice Thursday about the recent meeting with Washington. “Obviously, that’s a very good team, a physical team, a heavy team. But we played them with speed and pace. We had an opportunity to win a game and that breeds confidence within our group.”
Buffalo continues to battle through injuries, with defenseman Jake McCabe and Lawrence Pilut returning to the ice for practice Thursday, though their status remains unclear for Friday. Winger Jason Pominville left the Panthers game after an on-ice collision, and Housley said his status was “day-to-day.”
In addition, Buffalo announced Wednesday that center Patrik Berglund was placed on unconditional waivers with the intent to terminate his contract. The veteran, who was having a disappointing season, was indefinitely suspended when he didn’t show up for the Sabres’ flight to Washington last week.
“I’m not going to comment on that,” Housley said. “It’s an unfortunate situation, but we’re focused on the guys in that room.”
The Capitals are coming off a hard-fought, 2-1 loss to rival Pittsburgh on Wednesday that ended their five-game winning streak. But Washington’s players felt like they did enough in the loss to carry some positive momentum into the game against Buffalo.
“We’ve played some good hockey here, a good stretch,” forward Tom Wilson told reporters. “We’ll regroup here and get back after it.”
Ovechkin saw his 14-game point streak come to end in the loss to Pittsburgh, but in 46 games against Buffalo, he has 47 points, including 30 goals. And with Wilson, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nicklas Backstrom all having solid years, the Sabres are aware of the dangers when facing the Capitals.
“They’re so skilled over there — they have so many good players,” Buffalo’s Jack Eichel told the team’s website. “They generate a lot of really grade-A chances and they play well together.”
Washington likely will go with starter Braden Holtby between the pipes as they head toward the holiday break. He is 8-3-0 since Nov. 19.
“For us, moving forward, we’ll push into these final two games before we get a much-needed break,” Capitals coach Todd Reirden told reporters. “I like a lot of things we’ve done. I want to win every single game, and we’ve been doing a good job of trying to win most of them.”