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Capitals, Sabres meet for second time in five days

by Dan Rosen
SABRES (7-9-3) at CAPITALS (13-4-1)


Last 10:
Buffalo 4-4-2; Washington 8-1-1

Season series --
This is the second of four meetings this season between the clubs. Buffalo needed overtime to beat the Capitals, 3-2, this past Saturday at HSBC Arena. Thomas Vanek scored four minutes into the extra session.

Big Story --
This is the rematch of last Saturday's seesaw game in Buffalo, won by the Sabres on Vanek's OT winner. It remains the Capitals' lone blemish of the month (6-0-1). Ryan Miller made his return from a lower-body injury that night to stop 23 of 25 shots. Buffalo won again on Monday, again in overtime, and is 4-0-1 in its last five games.

Team Scope:

Sabres -- After a dreadful first 30 days of the season (3-9-2 record by Nov. 5), the Sabres have found a way to turn it around. They are 4-0-1 over their last five games and each of the wins has come in either overtime or via the shootout. Miller has stopped 59 of 64 shots since returning from his seven-game hiatus. Derek Roy has points in five-straight games and Vanek has points in four in a row. Tyler Myers scored the overtime winner Monday to give the Sabres a 4-3 win over Vancouver. Buffalo gave up a two-goal lead in the third period, but managed to get the two points anyway.

"Losing hurt, but we kept working hard," Vanek said. "We knew we were going to turn it around. We dug ourselves a pretty good hole, but slowly we are climbing out of it. We're righting the ship here pretty good, but we have to keep going."

Capitals -- After a small stumble in Buffalo, the Capitals got back to their winning ways Sunday with a 6-4 win at home over Atlanta. John Erskine, who had 1 goal in his previous 141 games, scored his second in the last four on Sunday. It was his first goal on home ice since Jan. 19, 2008 and the second game-winner of his career. Erskine is just one of the blueliners who is producing. The Caps D-men have produced 29 points (11 goals, 18 assists) over the last eight games. Erskine, Mike Green, Tyler Sloan, Tom Poti, John Carlson and Karl Alzner have all scored goals.

"I think you need somebody other than Mike Green scoring goals and getting points from the back end if you want to be successful," coach Bruce Boudreau said in the Washington Post. "If those guys are getting them, that's great."

Who's Hot --
Along with the scoring streaks from Roy and Vanek, Sabres forward Mike Grier has points in three straight games and Steve Montador has scored a goal in each of the last two games. … Green is pacing the Capitals' blue-line corps with 12 points in the last nine games, but Sloan had 2 assists Sunday for the first multi-point game of his career.

Injury Report --
Sabres forward Patrick Kaleta left Monday's game with an upper-body injury. … Capitals forward Boyd Gordon has missed the last three games with a lower-body injury and Poti did not practice Tuesday due to what is reportedly a groin injury. He's missed the last two games.

Stat Pack --
Capitals center David Steckel has won 39 faceoffs in the last two games and is 63 percent on draws this season. Entering Tuesday's action, Steckel's winning percentage in the circle was the best in the League among players who qualify in that category. … Wednesday's game features two of the top 10 scoring defensemen in the League as both Green and Jordan Leopold have 13 points.

Puck Drop --
Washington is already running away with the Southeast Division title. The Capitals lead the second-place Lightning by nine points and they've played only 18 games this season. Boudreau isn't so sure how he should feel about that because the last thing he wants is for his team to get complacent before the season is even halfway through.

"You don't want to ever make it a concern that you're doing too good because we really emphasize how important it is early to gain these points because you're going to run into a rough spot and you're going to need the cushion," Boudreau told "But at the same time, last year we won the division by 38 points, so you don't get to play in all of those tough, grind-it-out games at the end of the season. If you think you're all that, be careful what you wish for … but you can't wish to play playoff hockey for the last month and a half of the season because you want to be the team that doesn't have to worry about getting in the playoffs."
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