Game 36 Preview: Caps Host Buffalo Sabres

Posted by Dave Nichols | Friday, December 26, 2008 | , , | 0 comments »

The Washington Capitals (21-11-3-45, first in Southeast) host the Buffalo Sabres (16-13-5-37, third in Northeast) at 7:00 PM from Verizon Center.

The Capitals enter play tonight winners of nine of their last 11 games, including Tuesday's come-from-behind 5-4 OT win over the New York Rangers. Down 4-0, the Caps completed the comeback with the overtime winner from Shaone Morrisonn, the defenseman's first goal of the season.

Alex Ovechkin started and capped the comeback, netting the team's first and fourth goals, while Tomas Fleischmann and Viktor Kozlov chipped in as well.

Jose Theodore got the win, despite allowing goals on three of the first five shots he faced and being lifted in the first period. He would return to start the second period and give up one more goal, but thereafter shut the door on the Blueshirts, allowing his skaters to collect goals and, ultimately, victory.

The Caps continue to be plagued by injury. Brent Johnson becomes the latest addition to the injury list, as he will sit out tonight. The team recalled Simeon Varlamov from Hershey to back up Theodore tonight. With another game Sunday, Varlamov might stick around for a few games.

In addition to Johnson, also missing tonight are: Mike Green (shoulder), John Erskine (concussion), Jeff Schultz (broken finger), Sergei Fedorov (ankle), Alexander Semin (back), Tom Poti (groin) and Tomas Fleischmann (flu).

The team does benefit from the return of its captain, Chris Clark. Clark comes off the Long Term Injury List (LTIR) with the broken forearm. Donald Brashear also returns from an injured leg.

Andrew Gordon, Bryan Helmer and Alexander Giroux were all recalled from Hershey (AHL) to fill out the roster.

Buffalo has lost three out of their last four games, including back-to-back OT losses to Montreal and Pittsburgh their last two times out. They are hit pretty hard by the injury bug too, missing four of their regulars, including veteran defenseman Craig Rivet.

The Sabres are led on offense by Tomas Vanek, second in the league in goals scored with 24, though he has just 6 assists. Derek Roy (11-19-30, +1) and Jason Pominville (9-17-26, -1) are Vanek's set-up men.

Ryan Miller is the starting goalie for Buffalo. One of the league's best, Miller is 14-9-5 with a 2.61 GAA and .911 save percentage. Patrick Lalime (2-4-2, 3.09, .888) is the little-used veteran backup.

WAS: PP-5th (23.0%, 34/148); PK-24th (80.0%, 34/170)
BUF: PP-13th (18.7%, 19/155); PK-3rd (87.0%, 18/138)

WAS: D Jeff Schultz (Finger-IR); D John Erskine (Concussion-OUT); D Brian Pothier (Concussion-Out); C Sergei Federov (Ankle-OUT); G Brent Johnson (Hip-OUT); D Mike Green (Shoulder-OUT); D Tom Poti (Groin-OUT); LW Alexander Semin (Back-OUT)

BUF: D Craig Rivet (Upper body-IR); C Tim Connolly (Ribs-IR); C Paul Gaustad (Upper body-Questionable); C Nathan Gerbe (Upper body-IR); C Jochen Hecht (Ear-Questionable); RW Patrick Kaleta (Head-Out)