Capitals-Sabres Preview

The Associated PressMarch 29, 2013

After giving the Washington Capitals a lift during their last road swing, Braden Holtby looks to continue his recent success away from home as they begin another trip.

He might not have to face the Buffalo Sabres' leading scorer in the opener.

Holtby and the Capitals seek their fourth straight road win and a season sweep of the Sabres for the first time in 24 years on Saturday night.

While they appeared to be the verge of falling out of the Eastern Conference playoff hunt with five losses in seven games earlier this month, the Capitals (15-17-1) responded with three straight wins to close out their recent four-game trip.

Washington, however, had its run stopped in a 3-2 home loss to the New York Islanders on Tuesday.

"I don't think we came out with the fire we needed, the intensity we needed,'' center Matt Hendricks said.

Holtby, though, has two shutouts and a 0.99 goals-against average while winning four of five road starts. He'll try to continue that success in the opener of a three-game trip and lead the Capitals to their first sweep in this series since the 1988-89 season.

He'll catch a break if Buffalo is again without Thomas Vanek, who missed Thursday's 5-4 shootout loss at Florida because of an upper-body injury.

Vanek, who leads the team with 16 goals and 33 points, has four goals and six assists during a nine-game scoring streak against the Capitals.

The injury has come at a bad time for the Sabres (13-16-5), who are tied with Washington for 11th in the East, four points back of the New York Rangers and Islanders for the eighth and final playoff spot.

"There's 28 games on the table, we have to go get them," goalie Ryan Miller said.

Now the Sabres will try to end a two-game skid and build off their 3-0-1 record at home this month. They'll get their first look at the Capitals in Buffalo after losing the first two meetings on the road.

Jason Pominville, who had two assists in a 5-3 loss on March 17, has four goals and eight points in his last eight games against Washington.

The Sabres will likely have to give Miller some support since the Capitals have reached him for eight goals in two games this season.

Miller has just two wins and a 3.14 GAA in his last nine starts and has only three victories and a 2.82 GAA in his last 10 against the Capitals.

Alex Ovechkin has scored in both wins over the Sabres, giving him 19 goals and 31 points in 29 career meetings.

Ovechkin has three power-play goals in the last five meetings and leads Washington with 10 man-advantage goals on the season.

The Capitals are among the NHL's best teams on the power play at 24.1 percent and had scored with a man advantage in five straight contests before failing to convert on three chances against the Islanders.

They should be able to get back on track against the Sabres, who are near the bottom of the league in penalty-kill percentage (77.0) after killing only 11 of 17 penalties over their last four games.

"It's something different every day," coach Ron Rolston said of the team's struggles on the penalty kill.

While the Capitals have won three of four overall in this series, they've lost their last two trips to Buffalo.