The Capitals come into this contest having won their last two games, including Tuesday night's 4-3 shootout victory over the Nashville Predators. In the game, Alexander Semin continued his hot streak, with a regulation goal and assist, and a shootout tally as well. Michael Nylander also scored in the shootout, and it was his goal, the fourth for the Caps, that made the difference as G Jose Theodore closed the door on Nashville shooter Martin Erat. Theodore saved 23 of 26 shots faced.
Viktor Kozlov returned to the ice for Washington and netted his first goal of the season, while Dave Steckel scored his second shorthanded goal, on a beautiful tape-to-tape pass from Semin.
Washington will find itself, once again, without MVP Alex Ovcehkin, who is in Russia with his ailing grandfather. The Caps expect Ovechkin back next week, but certainly not for this game. The Caps will benefit from the return of D Tom Poti, who has missed much of the early part of the season with a sore groin. He skated at practice both Thursday and Friday, and the team sent D Tyler Sloan back to Hershey in anticipation of Poti's return.
Buffalo started the season on fire, winning their first four games by a combined score of 17-5. They've scrapped a little the week however, falling in succession to Colorado, Ottawa and Tampa Bay, the last two on home ice. The Sabres are a gifted offensive squad, led by Thomas Vanek, the leading goal scorer in the NHL so far. His nine goals are one more than the Caps' Semin.
Their losing streak has coincided with D Craig Rivet's injury, as he's out with a knee injury, and defenders Jaroslav Spacek and Teppo Numinen are veterans left to pick up the slack. G Ryan Miller is one of the league's best though, as his 2.07 GAA and .928 S% would attest. The Sabres currently have the league's best goal differential.
WAS: PP-16th (17.8%, 8/45); PK-20th (78.8%, 11/52)
BUF: PP-8th (21.4%, 12/56); PK-3rd (88.6%, 5/44)
WAS: LW Alexander Semin (tied for league lead in points with 16); C Sergei Federov (points in 7 of 9 games, tied for team +/- lead at +7)
BUF: LW Thomas Vanek (9-3-12, +3); RW Maxim Afinogenov (0-7-7, -1); LW Clarke Macarthur (5-2-7, -2)
WAS: RW Chris Clark (joins Ds Schultz and Morrisonn as only players to have appeared in every game this season without a goal)
BUF: C Derek Roy (1 goal in 10 games); RW Drew Stafford (2 goals on 26 shots); D Andrej Sekera (0-5-5, team low -4)
WAS: D Brain Pothier (concussion-OUT); LW Alex Ovechkin (personal-OUT); D Tom Poti (groin-PROBABLE)
BUF: D Craig Rivet (knee-OUT); C Tim Connolly (back-OUT); LW Jochen Hecht (finger-OUT)