Capitals, Sabres try to overcome injuries, get points
Saturday, 04.02.2011 / 7:00 PMSABRES (39-29-7) at CAPITALS (45-22-11)
TV: NHLN (HD), MSG-B (HD), CSN-DC (HD)
Buffalo 6-3-1; Washington 7-2-1
Washington has won two of three against Buffalo this season. The two clubs split games five days apart in November, while the Capitals prevailed in Buffalo in the most recent meeting in late February.
The Sabres are trying to hold onto one of the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference while the Capitals are vying for the top spot in the East, but both teams are dealing with injuries to key players.
Buffalo closed March with wins in four of the final five games, but the loss could prove to be worth far more than two points. Franchise goaltender Ryan Miller
was injured in the team's 4-3 loss in Toronto and he didn't play in a 1-0 win against the New York Rangers the next day.
Miller did not practice Friday and is questionable for the weekend, which also includes a game Sunday at Carolina against the ninth-place Hurricanes.
"He's doing OK. Still day-to-day," coach Lindy Ruff said. "It'll depend on where he's at tomorrow."
John Vogl of the Buffalo News reported Miller did not travel on the team plane to Washington.
Washington catapulted into the race for the No. 1 seed with a dynamite March, winning 12 of 15 during the month. Just like Buffalo, a loss in their second-to-last game of the month could prove worse because of injury. Already without defensemen Mike Green
and Tom Poti
, the Capitals lost recently acquired Dennis Wideman
after a hit from Tuomo Ruutu.
Originally day-to-day with a lower-body injury, the news was much worse Thursday. Wideman was in a local hospital because of a leg hematoma. He is now considered week-to-week.
"Everyone's got injuries," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "We don't want anybody else to get hurt. I've been on winning teams, and they've had to fight more guys being out than we have."
Tim Connolly has 4 goals and 10 points in his past 11 games for Buffalo. Mike Knuble
has 5 goals and 10 points in his past 10 games for Washington.
Besides Miller, the Sabres are also without defenseman Jordan Leopold
(finger) and forwards Derek Roy
(quad), Patrick Kaleta
(knee), Mike Grier (knee) and Jochen Hecht
(upper body). … The Capitals could also be without defenseman John Erskine
after he got in a fight Thursday and left with an undisclosed injury. Washington would have to recall a defenseman from Hershey of the AHL or play Brooks Laich
at the position if all four injured defensemen cannot play.
Should 22-year-old Jhonas Enroth
get the start for the Sabres, he would become the 10th goaltender in the League this season to have played at least 10 games at the age of 22 or younger. He will also face one of the other nine, because Washington has 33 percent of the U-23 goalies who have currently made at least 10 appearances (Semyon Varlamov, Michal Neuvirth
and Braden Holtby
If Miller is unable to play, Enroth could be charged with helping the Sabres into the playoffs. Enroth was a second-round pick in 2006 and has been considered a top prospect at different points of his career.
He's made only 10 NHL starts, including the 1-0 win against the Rangers. He's 6-2-1 this season with a 2.45 goals against average and .915 save percentage -- but only four of those appearances have come since Nov. 24.
"Jhonas played unbelievable last game for us, but you do notice when [Miller] is out of the lineup," defenseman Tyler Myers
said. "He's proved to be one of the best goaltenders in the world, and he's a key part of our group."