Preview: Capitals Begin 2023 With Buffalo

Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images

The Washington Capitals will face the Buffalo Sabres for the first time this season. Washington swept all three games with Buffalo last season and is 21-4-2 against them since 2015. Action from Capital One Arena can be seen on NBC Sports Washington+ in-market or ESPN+ out-of-market starting at 7 PM ET.

SCHEDULE

Buffalo: end three-game Eastern Conference road trip after splitting the first two games, stretch where six of seven games come on the road (5-1-0 so far)

Washington: wrap up three-game homestand where they play just Atlantic Division opponents after collecting three of four points in first two games, including a 9-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday

RECORDS

Buffalo: 18-15-2/.543 points percentage – fifth in Atlantic Division, 11th in Eastern Conference; 10-7-0 on road, T-15th in NHL

Washington: 21-13-5/.603 points percentage – third in Metropolitan Division (but fourth in points percentage), tied for fifth in Eastern Conference (seventh); 12-5-2 at home, fifth

HOW EACH TEAM IS DOING

Buffalo: 3-1 loss to Ottawa Senators on Sunday snapped six-game winning-streak but are 11-4-2 (.706 – tied for sixth) since November 21

Washington: have points in seven straight (6-0-1) and are 11-1-1 in last 13, 14-3-2 in their last 19 since dropping nine of their previous 11 (2-6-3)

TEAM LEADERS

Buffalo

  • C Tage Thompson (27 goals, 51 points)
  • D Rasmus Dahlin (28 assists, 26:18 TOI/game)

Notes: Thompson, 25, has done all of his scoring in the past 33 games after going scoreless in his first two this season but has just one goal in his last three; Dahlin, who has 10 goals this season, has just one helper in his last four; RW Alex Tuch has 10 goals, 28 points in his last 20, including five goals, 15 points in his last 10, and 39 points (17 goals) in 35 this season; LW Jeff Skinner, who saw a 10-game point-streak end (eight goals, 17 points) in Ottawa, has 12 goals, 24 points in his last 14; C Dylan Cozens, who has gone scoreless in three of his last five (one goal, three points), has 22 assists and 34 points in 35; LW Victor Olofsson has gone scoreless in five straight games; RW Kyle Okposo has four goals, five points in last five but no points in last two

Washington

Notes: Ovechkin, 37, has 24 goals and 40 points in his last 33, including 13 goals, 20 points, six multi-point efforts in his last 13; Kuznetsov, 30, has 14 assists and 17 points over his last 14, including two goal and 10 points in his last seven; D Erik Gustafsson has a +17 rating over his last 10 and six goals, 13 points over a seven-game point-streak; LW Conor Sheary has six assists, seven points over four-game point-streak; C Nic Dowd has five goals, eight points in his last nine; C Dylan Strome has four points over a four-game point-streak, including goals in back-to-back games; LW Marcus Johansson has three goals, six points in last six

KEY TEAM STATS

Goals-per-game:                 BUF – 3.91 (1st)             WSH – 3.26 (12th)

Goals-against per game:   BUF – 3.37 (22nd)         WSH – 2.72 (9th)

Power Play:                          BUF – 28% (3rd)           WSH – 21.9% (T-16th)

Penalty Kill:                         BUF – 72.9% (27th)      WSH – 81.3% (11th)

Shots-per-game:                 BUF – 32.1 (T-12th)      WSH – 31.6 (17th)

Shots-against per game:   BUF – 33 (25th)             WSH – 30.6 (12th)

Faceoff-winning %:           BUF – 45.3% (32nd)      WSH – 48.8% (T-21st)

5v5 Corsi-for %:                 BUF – 51.82% (8th)       WSH – 50.65% (16th)

5v5 x Goals-For %:            BUF – 49.09% (22nd)   WSH – 51.37% (15th)

5v5 SCF %:                          BUF – 49.78% (21st)     WSH – 51.15% (T-13th)

5v5 Shooting %:                 BUF – 9.72% (3rd)        WSH – 8.4% (15th)

5v5 Save %:                         BUF – .9164 (18th)        WSH – .9245 (8th)

5v5 PDO:                             BUF – 1.014 (T-5th)       WSH – 1.009 (T-8th)

EXPECTED STARTING GOALTENDERS

Buffalo: Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, 23 — 7-3-1, .896 save percentage, 3.35 goals-against average in 11 games this season; 40 saves (.952 save percentage) in lone career appearance vs. Washington, a 3-2 shootout loss on December 11, 2021

Washington: Darcy Kuemper, 32 — 10-9-3, .920 save percentage, 2.47 goals-against average, three shutouts in 23 games; 3-1-0, .911 save percentage, 2.66 goals-against average in four career games vs. Buffalo

INJURIES/ILLNESSES

Buffalo

  • G Eric Comrie (knee, expected to miss 19th straight game, out week-to-week)

Washington

  • Carlson (upper-body, fourth, indefinite)
  • RW Connor Brown (ACL, 36th, indefinite)
  • LW Carl Hagelin (hip, 40th, indefinite)
  • RW Tom Wilson (ACL, 40th, indefinite)
  • C Nicklas Backstrom (hip, 40th, indefinite)

PROJECTED LINEUPS

Buffalo

Skinner — Thompson — Tuch
Jack Quinn — Cozens — J.J. Peterka
Casey Mittlestadt — Tyson Jost — Olofsson
Zemgus Girgensons — Peyton Krebs — Okposo

Mattias Samuelsson — Dahlin
Owen Power — Kale Clague
Ilya Lybushkin — Jacob Bryson

Luukkonen
Craig Anderson

Scratched: RW Vinnie Hinostroza, LW Rasmus Asplund, D Casey Fitzgerald

Washington

Ovechkin — Kuznetsov — Sheary
Sonny Milano — Strome — Anthony Mantha
Johansson — Lars Eller — T.J. Oshie
Aliaksei Protas — Dowd — Garnet Hathaway

Gustafsson — Trevor Van Riemsdyk
Dmitry Orlov — Nick Jensen
Martin Fehervary — Matt Irwin

Kuemper
Charlie Lindgren

Scratched: LW Joe Snively, RW Nicolas Aube-Kubel, D Alexander Alexeyev

By Harrison Brown

About Harrison Brown

Harrison is a diehard Caps fan and a hockey fanatic with a passion for sports writing. He attended his first game at age 8 and has been a season ticket holder since the 2010-2011 season. His fondest Caps memory was watching the Capitals hoist the Stanley Cup in Las Vegas. In his spare time, he enjoys travel, photography, and hanging out with his two dogs. Follow Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonB927077
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5 Responses to Preview: Capitals Begin 2023 With Buffalo

  1. Anonymous says:

    Not sure why Irwin is playing ahead of AA and LJ…

  2. novafyre says:

    Buffalo is for real this year and a very good opportunistic offense. Talked to a Sabres fan last month who is a perpetual doubter and he was excited about the Sabres this year. Really excited.

    • KimRB says:

      Yup. Thompson is a monster. 6’6″ and skilled. When Powers and Dahlin mature a little more, and if they get decent goaltending, they’ll be ready to contend

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