CAPITALS (26-6-2) at SABRES (15-16-4)
TV: SNO, SNW, SNP, CSN-DC+, MSG-B
BUFFALO -- The Washington Capitals are looking to win their eighth straight game, but may be without defenseman John Carlson when they face the Buffalo Sabres on Monday (7 p.m. ET; SNO, SNW, SNP, CSN-DC+, MSG-B).
Carlson didn't practice Sunday and skated briefly before the rest of the Capitals took the ice on Monday to prepare for their game against the Sabres. Whether Carlson plays will be a game-time decision.
"It's always the player's comfort level; right now that's primary, however he feels," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "One thing that's great about our group is you just ask them one question. If you feel you can't contribute, then that's to take you out. If you can contribute and you feel safe, then I'll put you in. So that's really the player's decision all the time."
Carlson has played in 412 consecutive games, the second-longest streak in Capitals history behind Bobby Carpenter's 422. He's also the Capitals' top-scoring defenseman with six goals and 27 points and is fourth on the Capitals in points. If Carlson can't play, Connor Carrick will take his place in the lineup.
The Capitals have won seven straight games and 14 of the past 16, and have the second-best record in the NHL behind the Dallas Stars.
"I thought we made a step in the right direction last year the way we played compared to other years," Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom said. "We're trying to get better every day and we're trying to improve and hopefully we can learn from our mistakes from previous years. Right now we have a good feeling in the locker room and hopefully we can build off that."
Goaltender Braden Holtby will start. He has not lost in regulation since Nov. 10.
The Sabres are coming off a 6-3 win against the Boston Bruins on Saturday in which they scored five unanswered goals in the third period to win. Rookie center Jack Eichel had two goals and two assists and has six points in the past three games.
"I know he was pressuring and feeling it a little bit … to get a breakout night," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "I think we all could see the smile on his face and the jump in his step if you were here for practice yesterday, it was his best practice in a long while. So I think he has a sense of relief and getting the game he had in Boston and getting the goals and the points in that game."
Eichel is second on the Sabres in goals with 11 behind Ryan O'Reilly and third with 20 points behind O'Reilly and defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen.
"Hopefully after [Christmas] break I can settle in and get my confidence going and get to the way I want to play and then start producing the way I want to and helping our team win games," Eichel said.
Bylsma said he is going with the same lineup he used against the Bruins to face the Capitals except Linus Ullmark will start instead of Chad Johnson.
Forward Evander Kane will be in the lineup. After the morning skate Kane denied any wrongdoing in regard to reports he is involved in a sex-offense investigation relating to an alleged incident at a Buffalo hotel on Sunday morning.
"Obviously you guys are all aware of the situation that occurred, or that's going on right now," Kane said. There's not a whole lot I can say. I just want to say I've done nothing wrong; I look forward to clearing my name. I respect the legal process and, unfortunately at this time, there's not much more I can talk about."
Here are the projected lineups:
Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – T.J. Oshie
Marcus Johansson – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Justin Williams
Jason Chimera – Jay Beagle – Tom Wilson
Brooks Laich – Michael Latta – Andre Burakovsky
Nate Schmidt – John Carlson
Karl Alzner – Matt Niskanen
Dmitry Orlov – Taylor Chorney
Injured: Brooks Orpik (lower body)
Scratched: Stanislav Galiev, Connor Carrick
Jamie McGinn – Ryan O'Reilly – Sam Reinhart
Evander Kane – Jack Eichel – Tyler Ennis
Zemgus Girgensons – Johan Larsson – Brian Gionta
Matt Moulson – David Legwand – Nicolas Deslauriers
Josh Gorges – Rasmus Ristolainen
Jake McCabe – Zach Bogosian
Mike Weber – Cody Franson
Injured: Mark Pysyk (lower body), Robin Lehner (ankle), Cody McCormick (blood clot)
Scratched: Marcus Foligno, Carlo Colaiacovo
Status update: Foligno has recovered from his upper-body injury, but Bylsma said he has to wait his turn to get back in the lineup.
Who's hot: Chimera has scored a goal in three straight games and has five points in the past four. Beagle has a goal and an assist in the past two games. … In the past three games, Eichel has two goals and four assists, O'Reilly has three goals and an assist, Kane has two goals and an assist and McCabe has a goal and two assists.