The Washington Capitals host the Buffalo Sabres at Capital One Arena on Saturday night at 7 PM for their lone visit to the District this season. The Capitals and Sabres will close out their season series against one another. The Sabres won the first meeting 3-1 on November 7 in upstate New York and Washington evened the season series with a 3-2 victory on Presidents’ Day five days ago.
The Sabres wrap up a short two-game road trip after opening their travel at Detroit’s Little Caeser’s Arena on Thursday with a 3-2 overtime victory over the Red Wings. Defenseman Marco Scandella won it for Buffalo with 0.2 seconds left in the extra frame.
The Sabres have had some impressive games lately, snapping the Bruins’ 18-game point streak earlier this month by winning 4-2 at TD Garden and defeating the Eastern-Conference-leading Tampa Bay Lightning 5-3 at home on February 13. Those two victories have been the highlights of Buffalo’s season. Though they did sweep their western Canadian road trip in January, they lost four of their five games on a season-long homestand, including the first four games.
Sitting at the basement of the Eastern Conference with only 18 wins, 47 points, and a -54 goal differential, the Sabres are expected to be major sellers when Monday’s NHL trade deadline hits at 3 PM ET. Rumors have been swirling around winger Evander Kane, who is second on the team with 20 goals and third with 40 points. Kane can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. In fact, there’s a chance Kane could be traded before the game Saturday night.
Robin Lehner will likely start for the Sabres in Washington. He is 13-22-8 with a 2.92 goals against average and a .911 save percentage. He stopped 24 of 25 Capitals shots in the Sabres’ 3-1 victory over Washington on November 7, his last start against the Caps.
The Capitals return home from a short trip to South Florida, where they dropped a 3-2 decision to the Panthers. The Capitals played well for most of Thursday’s game, but the Panthers scored twice in the final four minutes — including the game-winner with less than 20 seconds left off the stick from Vincent Trochek on the power play.
The loss marked the second consecutive loss for the Capitals, who also lost 4-2 on home ice to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday. The Capitals have just won two of their last seven outings, going 2-3-2 in that span. They have also dropped six of their past eight home games, going 2-4-2 in that span.
When the puck drops Saturday night, the Capitals will be in unfamiliar territory, sitting in second (or perhaps even third) place in the Metropolitan Division. Pittsburgh sits atop the division after beating Carolina on Friday night, and the Flyers visit Ottawa to take on the Senators at 2 PM Saturday.
The Capitals will play three of their next four games on home ice, where they are 20-9-2 this season. Washington’s lone road game in that span will be a game in Columbus on Monday night.
Defenseman Jakub Jerakek could make his Capitals debut on Saturday. He was acquired from Montreal in exchange for a 2019 fifth round draft pick. During his time with the Canadiens, he tallied a goal, four points, and had a -1 rating in 25 games this season.
— Tarik El-Bashir⌨️🎙🏒 (@TarikNBCS) February 24, 2018
Grubauer has started all of Washington’s games against the Sabres. He made 29 saves on 31 shots in a 3-1 loss to the Sabres at KeyBank Center on November 7 and 32 saves on 34 shots in a 3-2 win in Buffalo on Monday. He enters tonight with a 0.938 save percentage against the Sabres this season. Lifetime against the Sabres, he is 3-1-2 with a .952 save percentage and a 1.34 goals against average.
In his 16 appearances prior to Monday’s game, Grubauer was 5-5-2 with a 2.14 goals against average and a .931 save percentage.
-the Capitals are 8-3-0 against the Sabres since Barry Trotz took over as the Capitals’ head coach and have won their past four home games against Buffalo
–Andre Burakovsky has four goals and eight points (all even strength) in his past 12 games
-With 68 points in 61 games this season, Alex Ovechkin is one point shy of his point total from last season in 82 games. He has 28 goals and 44 points in 44 games against Buffalo in his career. He has tallied a goal in each of the Capitals’ two games against the Sabres this season.
-the Capitals are 21-7-4 in their past 32 games against Buffalo
A Look Back in Time
Down 2-1 to Buffalo at the second intermission, the Capitals struck four times to extend their season-high winning streak to nine games. Justin Williams struck in the second period before the Capitals’ offence took control with two goals from Alex Ovechkin and one each from Marcus Johansson and Andre Burakovsky. Evgeny Kuznetsov had two assists and Braden Holtby made 25 saves en route to a 5-2 comeback victory over the Sabres.
By Harrison Brown