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Caps visit Sabres in quest for seventh straight win

by Dan Rosen
CAPITALS (12-4-0) at SABRES (5-9-3)


Last 10 -- Washington 8-2-0; Buffalo 3-5-2

Season series -- This is the first of four meetings this season between the clubs. They'll play again Wednesday in Washington.

Big Story -- Alexander Semin will look to keep his torrid streak going in Western New York. He'll likely have to do it against Sabres goalie Ryan Miller, who is expected to play for the first time since suffering a knee injury Oct. 29. Miller has practiced with the team this week and proclaimed himself ready to play after Friday's workout. Semin has 12 goals this season, with half coming in just two games. He recorded his second hat trick in nine games and fifth of his career in Thursday's 6-3 win against Tampa Bay. He added 2 assists for a 5-point night, which moved him into fourth place in scoring this season with 21 points. Semin, though, has only 1 goal and 3 assists in 13 career games against the Sabres.

Team Scope:

Capitals -- Washington has won six straight games and eight of its last nine to move into first place in the NHL heading into Friday's action. They are a remarkable 9-3-0 when they give up the first goal in a game. Alex Ovechkin had a 3-point night Thursday to move into second place in the scoring race with 23 points. Ovechkin has 13 goals and 22 points in 19 career games against the Sabres. Tom Poti returned to the lineup Thursday and scored a goal. David Steckel won 20 of his 29 faceoffs against the Lightning to become the first Capitals player to win 20 draws in a single game since Jeff Halpern in 2005.

Sabres -- A streak is a streak, even if the Sabres haven't exactly won a game in regulation, to earn five points in the last three games. They picked up shootout wins in Toronto and New Jersey before falling in overtime at the Rangers on Thursday. Still, the Sabres can look at the standings and see they went 2-0-1 on a recent road trip, so things are looking up. They were on a 0-4-1 slide heading into last Saturday's Hall of Fame Game at Air Canada Centre. To keep the positive news flowing, the Sabres learned Friday that Miller would be able to start Saturday's game.

"I'm ready," Miller said according to the Buffalo News. "I'm going to let Lindy (Ruff, coach) make the line-up call, but he knows I'm ready to play and we'll go from there. It's nice to see things going our way and we're making some progress."

Who's Hot -- Sabres forward Derek Roy had 5 points (2 goals, 3 assists) on the three-game road trip and now leads the team with 8 goals, 10 assists and 18 points. … Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom had 4 assists in Thursday's win. He has 8 assists in his last four games and 14 for the season.

Injury Report -- Sabres captain Craig Rivet probably is out again with the flu. He missed the games against the Devils and Rangers. … Caps center Boyd Gordon is out with a lower-body injury suffered Thursday.

Stat Pack -- Washington has gotten goals from defensemen in six straight games -- Mike Green has 4, and John Carlson, Tyler Sloan, John Erskine and Tom Poti have 1 apiece.

Puck Drop -- The Capitals have won games against 10 different Eastern Conference opponents this season (Devils, Senators, Islanders, Thrashers, Hurricanes, Maple Leafs, Bruins, Flyers, Rangers and Lightning). They haven't played the Sabres, Canadiens, Penguins or Panthers yet.

"It is a good statement," said coach Bruce Boudreau. "I think we've got some good players that are starting to wind it up and hopefully they can continue to do so."
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