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Caps look to avenge earlier losses to Sabres

by Davis Harper /

SABRES (17-16-3) at CAPITALS (18-15-2)

TV: MSG-Buffalo, CSN-MA

LAST 10: Buffalo 3-5-2; Washington 5-4-1

Season Series: This is the third of four season meetings, but the first at the Verizon Center. Buffalo took the first two in convincing fashion, including a 4-2 win on Monday in which the Sabres scored four times in the first to chase Washington starter Michal Neuvirth.

Big Story: As the new calendar year beckons, both Washington and Buffalo sit on the outside of the playoff picture looking in. Washington is 10th, while Buffalo is a point behind. The Sabres' dominance of the Caps so far this season will be tested in the nation's capital, where Buffalo hasn't won in five meetings. Buffalo will try to snap that streak, as well as a four-game road losing skid overall, as Washington looks to build off its most complete performance of the season - a 4-1 victory against the New York Rangers on Wednesday.

Team Scope:

Sabres: The Caps leapfrogged Buffalo on Wednesday when the Sabres fell 3-1 in New Jersey. The loss was Buffalo's fourth in five games, all coming away from First Niagara Center. Buffalo equaled the Devils with 23 shots on goal, but couldn't capitalize at full strength. Only after New Jersey built a 3-0 lead did Tomas Vanek score his 18th of the season, a power-play goal.

"We just didn't finish," Vanek said.

Capitals : Buffalo's struggle to score may not get any easier in Washington, where the Capitals have won four of five and killed off 21 straight opponent power plays. In his first start since Dec. 13, Tomas Vokoun stopped 31 shots against the Rangers.

Alexander Semin scored twice and Alex Ovechkin assisted on both goals, but it was the Caps' willingness to do the little things that pleased their coach the most.

"It's just commitment by the guys, blocking shots," Dale Hunter said. "You saw the blocked shots out there. The puck does hurt and they committed to it and that's why we killed two off late. They had a good power play and good players on it, but you saw guys going down and blocking shots and that's commitment to win."

Who's Hot: Ovechkin's two assists broke a career-worst 23-game streak without a multipoint outing. The Washington captain has nine goals and 18 points in 12 home games versus the Sabres, and also notched a goal in Monday's loss.

Injury Report: Buffalo winger Tyler Ennis is questionable with a left ankle injury. Andrej Sekera (upper body), Colin Stuart (lower body), Ville Leino (lower body), Corey Tropp (upper body), Nathan Gerbe (concussion) and Tyler Myers (broken wrist) will all miss significant time on injured reserve. … Washington is significantly healthier. Mathieu Perreault is questionable with an upper-body injury, while defensemen Mike Green and Tom Poti are both on the IR with strained groins.

Stat Pack: Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller is 0-3-0 with a 3.38 goals against average in his last three games at the Verizon Center. Miller will have his work cut out for him on Friday: In their recent hot streak at home, Washington has scored 16 goals and averaged 27.6 shots in five games.

Puck Drop: "All through the lineup, guys were just playing tough. Not letting guys get free passes, even in front of our net, playing hard on the cycle, stuff like that. When you play tough, when you play hard, it makes it tough for the other team to create anything."- Capitals winger Troy Brouwer, who scored the go-ahead goal Wednesday, on Washington's winning mentality against the Rangers.

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