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Miller, Ovi return as Sabres host Caps

by Brian Compton

CAPITALS (41-13-8) at SABRES (33-19-9)

Last 10 -- Washington 7-1-2; Buffalo 3-5-2.

Season series -- This is the fourth and final meeting between the teams. Washington has won two of the first three, including a 5-2 victory at the Verizon Center on Dec. 23, 2009. Nicklas Backstrom scored twice for the Caps.

Big story -- Washington returns to the ice for the first time since the Olympic break, which means it's Alex Ovechkin's first game since Russia was pummeled by Canada in a 7-3 loss in the quarterfinals. The NHL standings should cheer Ovechkin up, though -- his Capitals have built a 12-point lead in the Eastern Conference.

Team Scope

Capitals -- Is goaltending an issue in Washington? We'll find out on Wednesday if GM George McPhee thinks so, as the trade deadline is set for 3 p.m. ET. A handful of goalies are available, but it's up to McPhee to either go for an upgrade, believe Jose Theodore can get the job done in the postseason or truly begin the Semyon Varlamov era in Washington.

"I don't know," Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said when asked who he believes will be Washington's No. 1 goalie in the playoffs. "(Theodore) has been playing really great of late and when (Varlamov) was healthy he was playing good and when (Michal Neuvirth) was healthy he was playing good, so it is a tough call. I'm glad we don't have to make that call in the next day or two."

Sabres -- After a sensational Olympic tournament, Ryan Miller will make his NHL return on Wednesday night. Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff decided to give Team USA's No. 1 goalie an extra night off, as he played Patrick Lalime in Tuesday's 3-2 loss at Pittsburgh.

"He became a little bit of a rock star out there … everybody knew him, and every TV you watched he was on," Sabres defenseman Henrik Tallinder said of Miller. "He had an unbelievable Olympics. I hope he can bring that to our team, obviously. But he's always been that good. We just hope he can bring that little bit extra to the final stretch of the season."

Who's hot -- Caps forward Mike Knuble has 13 goals in his last 16 games, while Ovechkin leads the League in goals (42), points (89) and plus/minus (plus-43). … Sabres forward Patrick Kaleta had two assists and was a plus-2 in Buffalo's return to action on Tuesday against the Pens.

Injury report -- Caps forward Jason Chimera and defenseman Tom Poti are both suffering from groin injuries, but neither is considered to be serious. … Buffalo is boasting a healthy lineup.

Stat pack -- Wednesday marks the second of 16 games that Buffalo plays in March. Of its final six games in April, five are on the road.

Puck drop -- "We've made it know from Day 1 that we want to be the best team in the League. That starts with winning your division, winning the conference and winning the League overall. Ultimately, maybe none of that matters if you don't have playoff success, but those are stepping stones to put you in the right direction." -- Caps center Brendan Morrison


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