Sabres-Capitals Preview


The Washington Capitals and Buffalo Sabres are both outside the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference.

The Capitals, though, enter their second game against the Sabres in five days with a much better feeling following one of their most well-rounded efforts.

Washington goes for its fifth consecutive home win in this series - and first victory in three meetings this season - as Buffalo tries to end a season-worst four-game road losing streak Friday night.

Despite setting a franchise record by winning their first seven games this season, the Capitals (18-15-2) are 10th in the East. They're 6-6-1 since coach Dale Hunter replaced the fired Bruce Boudreau following a 5-1 loss to Buffalo on Nov. 26.

The Sabres (17-16-3), who opened the season 5-1-0, trail Washington by one point but are 7-11-3 since their last winning streak.

With Buffalo losing 3-1 at New Jersey on Wednesday, Washington moved up a spot in the standings that night with a 4-1 home victory over the New York Rangers.

Alexander Semin posted his first two-goal game of the season, Alex Ovechkin set up two scores to snap a career-worst 23-game stretch without at least two points and Tomas Vokoun stopped 31 shots in his first start since Dec. 13.

"All through the lineup, guys were just playing tough," said Troy Brouwer, who scored the go-ahead goal in the second period. "Not letting guys get free passes, even in front of our net, playing hard on the cycle, stuff like that. When you play tough, when you play hard, it makes it tough for the other team to create anything."

The Capitals have killed off all 21 of their opponents' power plays in the last seven home games.

"It's just commitment by the guys, blocking shots," Hunter told the Capitals' official website. "You saw the blocked shots out there. The puck does hurt and they committed to it and that's why we killed two off late. They had a good power play and good players on it, but you saw guys going down and blocking shots and that's commitment to win."

Washington has won four of five home games, totaling 16 goals and averaging 27.6 shots, after dropping three straight while scoring only five times on 19.0 shots per game.

The Capitals have a 16-8 scoring edge in Buffalo's last four visits.

Making the first of two trips to the nation's capital this season, the Sabres will try to avoid the team's first five-game road skid since an 0-6-2 stretch Jan. 19-March 2, 2010.

"We definitely have had a frustrating start to the season," goaltender Ryan Miller said.

Miller, who has started seven consecutive games, made 20 saves in Monday's 4-2 win over Washington after missing last month's matchup due to a concussion.

The former Vezina Trophy winner is 0-3-0 with a 3.38 goals-against average in his last three games in Washington.

Vokoun will likely get a second straight start. He made 23 saves on Nov. 26 and turned aside 16 of 17 shots Monday after the Sabres chased Michal Neuvirth with three goals in the opening 11:15.

Ovechkin scored a power-play goal in that contest. He has nine goals and 18 points in 12 home games versus Buffalo.

Sabres left wing Thomas Vanek will try to extend his point streak to seven by scoring a point in his seventh consecutive game against the Capitals.

Buffalo ended season-high three-game skids in the first two matchups with Washington.