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At the Rink: Sabres at Capitals

by Adam Vingan

ARLINGTON, Va. -- The Washington Capitals penalty kill has been robust over the past several games, foiling 14 straight opposing power plays and 17 of 19.

An alteration was made following the Capitals' 6-5 loss to the Arizona Coyotes on Nov. 2 in which they allowed a season-high six power-play chances and surrendered two goals. That excludes an even-strength goal scored one second after a Washington penalty expired.

Assistant coach Lane Lambert, who oversees the penalty kill, accentuated what forward Jay Beagle called trigger moments, situations such as bouncing pucks, missed shots and opposing skaters on their backhands that call for calculated aggression.

"When you kind of stand there in your box and let them set up, eventually good players are going to make good plays," Beagle said. "We went over quite a bit of video and Lane does a great job on scouting the other team's power play. The main adjustment was just getting more aggressive in certain situations, and he let us know which situations through video."

The results are evident. In Washington's past eight games, it has killed 89.4 percent of its penalties as compared to 78.5 percent in its first 11 games.

There has also been a vast improvement in shot suppression over that same span. The Capitals have allowed 34.96 shorthanded shots per 60 minutes since Nov. 4, third in the NHL, according to Prior to this stretch, they had allowed 48.48. Unblocked shot attempts per 60 minutes are also down from 74.14 to 59.93.

"They did a lot of work on it," coach Barry Trotz said. "I think it's [a] bigger commitment from guys, I think guys were trying so hard in certain areas that they were overextending themselves. You've got to get some saves too. I think the combination of those two has done pretty well lately."

The Buffalo Sabres, who had their game Friday against the New York Rangers rescheduled to Feb. 20 because of the snowstorm blanketing western New York, did not hold a morning skate Saturday. Despite having the fewest points in the League, the Sabres have won two straight against the Toronto Maple Leafs and San Jose Sharks by a combined score of 10-3.

"They're starting to come together as a team and they're a lot better team than people are giving them credit for," Trotz said. "Buffalo is such a young team and in some ways rebuilding, but they're still a good team right now. They're playing well. They've outscored their opponents 10-3 in the last two games. That should say it all right there."

Here are the projected lineups:


Matt MoulsonTyler Ennis -- Zemgus Girgensons

Torrey Mitchell -- Brian FlynnBrian Gionta

Marcus FolignoCody McCormickChris Stewart

Nicolas DeslauriersCody HodgsonDrew Stafford

Tyson StrachanTyler Myers

Nikita ZadorovRasmus Ristolainen

Mike WeberAndrej Meszaros

Jhonas Enroth

Nathan Lieuwen

Scratched: Patrick Kaleta, Andre Benoit

Injured: Josh Gorges (knee), Michal Neuvirth (lower body)


Alex OvechkinNicklas BackstromTom Wilson

Marcus JohanssonAndre BurakovskyTroy Brouwer

Jason ChimeraJay BeagleJoel Ward

Michael LattaEvgeny KuznetsovEric Fehr

Brooks OrpikJohn Carlson

Karl AlznerMatt Niskanen

Nate SchmidtMike Green

Braden Holtby

Justin Peters

Scratched: Jack Hillen

Injured: Brooks Laich (shoulder), Liam O'Brien (lower body), Aaron Volpatti (upper body), Dmitry Orlov (wrist), John Erskine (neck surgery)

Status report: Capitals forward Chris Brown, recalled from the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League on Nov. 14, was reassigned Saturday. … O'Brien and Laich could return Wednesday against the New York Islanders. "That's what he's telling everybody," Trotz said of Laich.

Who's hot: Girgensons, tied with Ennis for the Sabres lead in goals, has scored three in his past three games. … In winning four of his past five starts, Holtby has a .945 save percentage.

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