Bruce Boudreau still has the interim tag attached to his name as coach of the Washington Capitals. The way his team has performed since he took over, that may not be the case much longer.
The Capitals try to stretch their winning streak to a season-high four games on Friday night when they face a team they have struggled against in recent years - the Buffalo Sabres.
When Boudreau replaced Greg Hanlon as Capitals coach on Nov. 22, the team was 6-14-1 and 14 points behind Southeast Division-leading Carolina. Under Boudreau, they have gone 6-3-1 to pull within nine points of the Hurricanes.
Defenseman Mike Green capped a three-point game with a goal 3:41 into overtime Wednesday, lifting Washington to a 5-4 victory over the visiting New York Rangers. Joe Motzko added his first two goals of the season for the Capitals, who haven’t won four in a row since Nov. 28-Dec. 6, 2006.
While star Alexander Ovechkin has continued to produce, Washington has also received offense from several other sources lately.
Green has three goals and two assists in his last three games, defenseman Jeff Schultz has goals in three consecutive contests and rookie center Nicklas Backstrom has two goals and three assists in his past four games.
Even enforcer Donald Brashear is contributing, adding two assists Wednesday for his first multi-point game in more than two years.
“Scoring by committee is something we need, because we’ve got to take some of the pressure off Ovie,” Washington’s Brooks Laich said. “He does the job most nights, but for us to win consistently, we need goals from three, four lines.”
The players feel more confident playing under Boudreau’s aggressive strategy.
“Hearing him behind us, ‘Keep your heads up,’ and ‘We need to get two goals’ - that was the bottom line,” Green said. “We just had faith we were going to win the game, and good things happen when you have faith.”
Ovechkin has eight goals and five assists in his last nine games overall. He also has six goals and five assists in 10 career contests against Buffalo, but that hasn’t helped the Caps win many games.
Buffalo has won five straight and 12 of the last 14 meetings against Washington. The Sabres are 2-0 in this season’s series, including a 3-1 road victory on Nov. 26.
The Sabres hope to win back-to-back games for the first time this month after they scored three second-period goals Wednesday in a 5-3 victory over the visiting New York Islanders. Ales Kotalik scored one goal and set up another for Buffalo (14-14-1), which is 3-4-0 since a season-best five-game win streak.
One year after winning the Presidents’ Trophy with 113 points, the Sabres are last in the Northeast Division with 29 points.
“We have a long way to climb over the next few months, and our margin of error isn’t like it was the last few years,” goaltender Ryan Miller said. “I think we can be better, myself included.
“Personally I want to be a go-to kind of goalie. I’ve been good enough to get us 12 or 13 wins, but that’s not good enough right now.”
Miller, like the rest of his teammates, has enjoyed plenty of success against the Capitals. He is 6-1-0 with one shutout and a 2.68 goals-against average in eight career starts versus them.