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Buffalo
Sabres
41-32-9
Washington
Capitals
50-24-8

24 SOG
34 SOG
1st2nd3rdT
BUF
WSH
game preview

Sabres-Capitals Preview

Friday, 12.26.2008 / 7:00 PM

Associated Press

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Sabres-Capitals Preview
Buffalo Sabres vs. Washington Capitals

If a four-goal deficit on the road isn't enough to sink the Capitals, that doesn't leave opponents much hope for beating Alexander Ovechkin's team in Washington.

That's the task the Buffalo Sabres will face on Friday, when the Capitals try to ride the momentum from a dramatic comeback in Manhattan and continue their dominant play at the Verizon Center.

Washington's five-game winning streak ended with a 7-1 loss at Philadelphia on Saturday, and the team seemed on track for another defeat on Tuesday, when it fell behind 4-0 less than five minutes into the second period against the New York Rangers.

But led by a pair of goals and an assist from Ovechkin, the Capitals (21-11-3) stormed back, winning 5-4 on Shaone Morrisonn's goal 59 seconds into overtime. Nicklas Backstrom, who has 31 points in his last 21 games, tallied three assists.

"They probably believed 4-0 they'd win the game," said Ovechkin, who's third in the NHL with 46 points. "They tried to play conservative, but we play a different way. We play a hard, physical game and take lots of shots. You see the results."

Those results have been even clearer at home, where the Capitals are outscoring opponents 56-29 while going 13-1-1. Ovechkin, too, has been better, with 13 goals in 14 home games but just nine goals in 19 games on the road.

Washington's power play has also converted 29.0 percent of its chances at home, including 10-of-23 (43.5 percent) in five December games.

More doubt surrounds the Capitals' goaltending situation, where they had problems early in Tuesday's game. Jose Theodore started the game because Brent Johnson had a cold and a sore hip, but Washington coach Bruce Boudreau pulled Theodore after he allowed three goals on the first five shots he faced.

Johnson stopped the only three shots he faced in the first period, but the struggling Theodore came back for the second and stopped 19 of 20 shots the rest of the way.

"Sometimes the coach wants to give you the chance to bounce back, and that's what he did," said Theodore, whose 3.32 goals-against average ranks 44th in the league. "I was really lucky that I did have the chance to show character."

It's unclear who will be in net against the Sabres, who are coming off a back-to-back overtime losses before Christmas.

Buffalo (16-13-5) will have to deal with Ovechkin after facing the NHL's top two point-scorers on Monday, as Evgeni Malkin had three assists and Sidney Crosby scored the overtime game-winner for Pittsburgh in the Sabres' 4-3 loss.

"We played hard, so it was a tough break," Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said. "I thought our guys did a great job against a very skilled team."

The Sabres outshot Pittsburgh 35-22, but none of Thomas Vanek's eight shots found the net as his goal drought extended to a season-high four straight games.

Buffalo's Ryan Miller gave up at least four goals for the third time in his last four starts after going nine straight games without allowing that many.

Miller has played much better against the Capitals, going 8-2-0 with a 2.48 GAA and two shutouts in 11 career starts. He blanked Washington with 29 saves on Nov. 1, when the Sabres won 5-0 at home.

Buffalo has won its last three trips to the Verizon Center, allowing just four total goals in those games, but the Capitals were just 40-32-10 at home over the past two seasons.

The teams will meet again in Buffalo on Tuesday.

2008-2009 season series
DateScoreW. Goal
Apr 03 '09BUF 5 at WSH 4 - OTJ. Pominville
Dec 30 '08WSH 4 at BUF 2N. Backstrom
Dec 26 '08BUF 2 at WSH 3A. Ovechkin
Nov 01 '08WSH 0 at BUF 5T. Vanek
PlayerGPGAP+/-PIMPPGW
T. Vanek3525631-122104
D. Roy35111930+01824
J. Pominville3591726-11221
C. MacArthur349918-82840
D. Stafford3281018+3430
J. Spacek3511718-41410
A. Kotalik288917-21641
D. Paille334812-5400
T. Numminen3511112-31610
A. Sekera3511112-91010
J. Hecht253811-62511
M. Afinogenov312911-141000
A. Mair354610+37201
T. Lydman35189-42000
P. Gaustad22347-42611
T. Connolly6257+1000
H. Tallinder32145-21201
C. Rivet21055-63900
P. Kaleta23213-35000
M. Mancari7112-4400
N. Paetsch11022-5400
M. Ellis11101-1200
A. Peters23011-27400
N. Gerbe5011+3400
C. Butler4011+5000
M. Weber2000-2900
GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%
R. Miller2814-9-4717942.61.911
P. Lalime92-5-1252303.09.891
PlayerGPGAP+/-PIMPPGW
A. Ovechkin34232447+114273
N. Backstrom36102838+41660
A. Semin21141832+201613
V. Kozlov3191423-5820
M. Green2381220+92071
T. Fleischmann3212719-11853
B. Laich3681119-11932
M. Nylander3531417+21811
S. Fedorov154812+71610
T. Poti233710+6801
D. Steckel33459+12200
B. Gordon33369-2601
M. Jurcina36358-33001
E. Fehr20358+41211
J. Schultz21077+0600
M. Bradley36325+02201
D. Brashear33134-17301
T. Sloan23134+21000
K. Alzner15134+5000
S. Lepisto7044-3600
S. Morrisonn30123-12801
C. Clark21033-51400
B. Helmer8033+1200
A. Giroux8112+1601
J. Erskine19022+22900
S. Collins8011+2800
C. Bourque4000-1000
K. Aucoin3000+2000
G. Mink2000+0000
A. Gordon1000+0000
O. Osala1000+0000
GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%
J. Theodore2010-6-1605123.25.883
B. Johnson1810-5-2404792.52.916
S. Varlamov22-0-03641.50.953