A new owner appears to be giving the Buffalo Sabres some promise off the ice. Their recent play on it hasn’t been nearly as encouraging.
The Washington Capitals are having their own problems.
With their ownership situation almost settled, the Sabres look to avoid a fourth consecutive home defeat when they face the sputtering Capitals on Sunday.
The NHL has approved the $189 million sale of the Sabres (27-24-6) to Pennsylvania billionaire Terry Pegula, who could officially take over the club from Tom Golisano as early as Tuesday.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Pegula “has a passion for hockey.”
He also has ties to western New York and is a longtime Sabres season-ticket holder, which has resonated with the team’s fans.
That was evident as fans chanted “Ter-ry!” during the third period of Friday’s 3-0 loss to St. Louis.
“Being a fan at one point in my life, you look at the team and look at what’s happening, and it’s exciting,” right wing Patrick Kaleta(notes) said. “All I can see that’s going to come out of this is positive things.”
While issues off the ice are nearly concluded, Buffalo is having trouble on it. The club is tied with Atlanta for ninth in the Eastern Conference, four points back of eighth-place Carolina.
Overcoming struggles at home could trim that gap, and possibly appease the fans after they booed the Sabres during Friday’s defeat. Their 12-14-2 home record is among the worst in the league, and they’ve dropped three in a row at HSBC Arena, getting outscored 5-1 during the first two of this season-high six-game homestand.
“I’m worried about winning one game, about the team playing well and winning one game,” coach Lindy Ruff said when asked about the fans being excited about new ownership.
Ryan Miller(notes) will likely be back in net trying to end his own three-game slide. The reigning Vezina Trophy winner has a 3.65 goals-against average in that span after stopping 21 of 23 shots against the Blues.
He’s split his last six home meetings with the Capitals, compiling a 1.66 GAA and two shutouts. He had 23 saves in a 3-2 overtime win in the most recent matchup there Nov. 13 before making 25 stops in a 4-2 defeat at Washington four nights later.
The Capitals (30-19-10) are fifth in the East but enduring their own sluggish stretch, dropping four of five. They struggled again Thursday, falling 3-2 at San Jose a night after they appeared to break out with a 7-6 win at Anaheim.
Washington has totaled five goals over those four defeats.
“Ovie looks like the old Ovie now,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I hadn’t been able to say that but in recent games he has been, so let’s hope he continues. The energy he’s playing with, he’s coming back hard and he’s not staying upright and his shifts were short. And all those things encompass a good leader. That’s what he was doing.”
Ovechkin has also been thriving on the road, scoring seven goals and assisting on seven others in eight games. However, the left wing has no points in the last four visits to Buffalo.
Washington could have Mike Green(notes) back after he missed three games with an inner-ear issue. The defenseman has three assists in his last 12 games, and no points in two meetings with the Sabres this season.