Game Preview: Caps conclude homestand with Sabres on Black Friday

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The Capitals wrap up their season-long five game homestand with an early evening Black Friday tilt against the Buffalo Sabres. Puck drop is at 5:00 p.m. After the game the team will fly out to Toronto to take on the Maple Leafs on Saturday night before having a mini four-day break. After the break, the Capitals welcome the Islanders to Verizon Center on Thursday, December 1st. 

BUFFALO
The Sabres (7-8-5, 19 points) are in the basement of the Atlantic Division in eighth place after falling to the Red Wings in a shootout on home ice 2-1. Brian Gionta’s goal in the early third period tied the game.

Buffalo is last in the league in goals scored so far this season, with 37. The Sabres are 23rd in the league in goals against, giving up 47 goals through 20 games so far this season. The Sabres are 16th in the league in shot attempts per game, averaging 29.3 per game. On the plus side, Buffalo is currently 4th in the league in faceoff winning percentage at 51.9 percent.

Special Teams:
The Sabres power play is ranked ninth in the league with a 21.2% success rate. Buffalo is ranked 22nd in the NHL in the PK department at 80.6%, for a combined special teams index of 101.8.

Other Notes:
Ryan O’Reilly returned to the lineup on Wednesday night after missing five games due to an oblique injury. Jack Eichel is still recovering from a high-ankle sprain. Eichel returned to practice this week, and is close to returning to the Sabres lineup.

WASHINGTON
The Capitals (12-5-2, 26 points) bounced back from their Sunday afternoon loss to the Blue Jackets with a big #CapsGiving win over the Blues on Wednesday night in DC 4-3. Alex Ovechkin’s hat trick would prove to be the difference. Every goal except one was scored by a Russian player as Evgeny Kuznetsov also lit the lamp for Washington while Vladimir Tarasenko of St. Louis scored twice. Holding a 4-1 lead late in the third, late goals by Alex Pietrangelo and Tarasenko closed the gap to within one but the Capitals hung on for the win.

Friday’s game  will be the third consecutive game without T.J. Oshie, who suffered an injury last Friday against the Red Wings. Lars Eller made his return to the ice yesterday for practice and was penciled in the lineup against the Blues.

Special Teams:
The Capitals are ranked 19th in the league with the man advantage at a 16.1% conversion rate. The Caps penalty kill is ranked 17th in the NHL at 81.7%.

THE MATCHUP
This is the first of three meetings with the Sabres this season and the series will conclude in early December, two weeks from Friday to be exact. Friday night’s contest against the Sabres is the first of a back-to-back set this weekend. The Caps will depart after the game to face the Maple Leafs in Toronto on Saturday night. The Capitals won the season series against the Sabres last season with a 2-1-0 record, including a 5-2 victory on December 30th, 2015 in Buffalo’s lone visit to Verizon Center.

The Caps lost their most recent meeting, 4-1 in Buffalo but won their first two games of the series. In their first meeting last season, Braden Holtby got a shutout while Nicklas Backstrom and Jay Beagle scored in a 2-0 road win. That win marked their eighth win in a row. They met again in DC two nights later and the Caps rallied back from a 2-1 deficit to extend the win streak to nine. Alex Ovechkin scored twice in that contest which was in the middle of his chase to 500 goals.

Series Flashback

SHAVINGS

  • Caps were 14-5-1 through 20 games last season. With a win over Buffalo on Friday, Caps would be 13-5-2 through 20 games, just one OT loss (1pt) behind last year.
  • Braden Holtby has posted a 7-3-1 record in his career against Buffalo.
  • Braden Holtby has posted an 8-2-0 record in his last 10 games with one shutout, a 1.89 goals-against average and a.929 save percentage.
  • The Capitals allowed two shots in the first period on Wednesday against St. Louis, marking their fewest shots against in a period since December 13th, 2014 against Tampa Bay (1st: 2 shots). (Capitals PR)
  • Alex Ovechkin‘s hat trick was the 16th of his career. He is now just three shy of Peter Bondra’s franchise record.
  • Alex Ovechkin needs just one power play goal to reach the 200 power play goal milestone.
  • Ovechkin’s first goal of the night came on the power play. He is now one power play goal shy of becoming the 18th player in NHL history to score 200 power play goals.
  • Nicklas Backstrom has earned nine points in his last five games and leads the Capitals in assists (12) and points (18).

GAME LINKS
Trotz on Caps’ Third Periods: ‘We Just Got To Lock It Down A Little Bit Better’ (CSN)
Ovechkin Hat Trick Helps Caps Down Blues, 4-3 (Mike Vogel)
Game Notes vs. Buffalo, 11/25/16 (Capitals PR)

By Michael Marzzacco

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