The Buffalo Sabres are dealing with injuries to several regulars and those absences may finally be catching up with them.
Buffalo looks to end a season-high three-game losing streak Saturday night when it faces the Washington Capitals, losers of three straight on the road.
Playing without four regular forwards, two defensemen and No. 1 goaltender Ryan Miller, the Sabres (12-9-1) matched their worst loss of the season Friday, falling 5-1 at Western Conference-worst Columbus.
Jhonas Enroth has filled in admirably in place of Miller (concussion), but he was pulled early in the second period after allowing four goals on 18 shots.
A bright spot for Buffalo was top prospect Zach Kassian getting an assist in his NHL debut. Kassian was recalled from AHL Rochester after Brad Boyes went down with a right leg injury in Wednesday's shootout loss to Boston.
Boyes joins fellow forwards Tyler Ennis (ankle), Patrick Kaleta (lower body) and Cody McCormick (upper body) on the injury list, along with defensemen Mike Weber (upper body) and Tyler Myers (broken wrist).
To make matters worse, defenseman Robyn Regehr was injured during Friday's game and didn't return.
"I don't know if I've seen it this bad before,'' coach Lindy Ruff said. "I think we've got seven regulars out of the lineup. We need to make better plays than we did tonight. Obviously when you're short-handed you've got to be good with the puck.''
Returning home may not necessarily be a cure for the Sabres, who have lost three straight there. Buffalo's six home regulation losses are tied with Carolina and the New York Islanders for most in the Eastern Conference.
Ruff will have to decide between going back to Enroth or giving Drew MacIntyre his first NHL start. MacIntyre stopped 15 of 16 shots in relief Friday. Enroth gave up five goals on 35 shots in his only appearance against the Capitals, a 5-4 overtime loss April 2.
Washington (12-8-1) appeared to have righted itself with 4-3 wins over Phoenix and Winnipeg following a four-game losing streak, but the Capitals allowed four second-period goals in Friday's 6-3 home loss to the New York Rangers.
"Once it started with those four goals, it seemed to snowball,'' coach Bruce Boudreau said. "This is a league where you can't feel sorry for yourselves.''
The Capitals are 5-8-1 since opening the season 7-0-0 and have been outscored 14-3 during three consecutive road losses.
Alex Ovechkin ended a six-game goal drought and tied Jason Chimera for the team lead with his eighth of the season Friday - his first goal at home. Ovechkin has yet to score goals in back-to-back games this season.
With Michal Neuvirth allowing six goals on 33 shots Friday, Boudreau figures to start Tomas Vokoun against Buffalo. Vokoun has allowed six total goals while winning his last two starts.
Defenseman John Carlson scored Washington's second goal Friday, and the team's first on a 5-on-4 power play in 31 attempts. Fellow defenseman Mike Green, Washington's regular power-play quarterback, hasn't played since Nov. 11 due to a groin injury.
The Capitals have won three straight against the Sabres and are 5-0-1 in the past six meetings. Nicklas Backstrom has four goals and three assists for Washington in those six contests.