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Sabres know full team effort needed vs. Ovechkin

by Dan Rosen / NHL.com
WASHINGTON -- If Washington was icing a normal lineup with 12 forwards and six defensemen, odds are Buffalo's new shut-down line of Cody Hodgson with Derek Roy and Ville Leino would be responsible for Alex Ovechkin all night.

Washington, though, will go with 11 forwards and seven defensemen for the second straight game, so Sabres coach Lindy Ruff figures his team is going to see a lot of Ovechkin on Tuesday, meaning the responsibility for stopping the red-hot Capitals captain will fall on more than just a handful of shoulders.

"We're going to need two lines," Ruff said. "They've got Ovechkin playing on two lines, they're double-shifting him, and he's playing 25-plus minutes. We know what he's capable of doing, and if you give him space and time, anything on the rush, he's a dangerous player."

Ovechkin, who played over 26 minutes in Sunday's 3-0 win against Minnesota, has been piling up the goals, with seven during his five-game scoring streak. He has 10 goals in 13 games this month.

Ruff thinks he knows why.

"He's shooting more," Ruff said of Ovechkin, who is averaging 4.38 shots per game this month (57 in 13 games). "He's shooting from a lot of different places. He's caught some breaks. When you shoot more, good things happen."

Ruff compared Ovechkin's run to that of his own player, right wing Drew Stafford, who has 4 goals and 12 points in the last seven games.

"Stafford is shooting more and he's shooting in some situations that he (previously) passed off, and more pucks are going into the net," Ruff said.

An obvious key to limiting Ovechkin's chances, especially off the rush, is keeping the puck away from him. The Sabres can do that by continuing their dominance in the faceoff circle.

Buffalo has won the faceoff battle in seven of its last eight games. Not coincidentally, the Sabres are 6-0-2 in those games, with a 29-16 edge in non-shootout goals.

Roy and Cody Hodgson have been the catalysts, going a combined 154-129 in the circle (54.4 percent).

"We've gone up against some tough faceoff teams and we've garnered the edge," Ruff said. "It's a big part of the game. When you're not chasing the puck around all night, when you can start with the faceoff, it gives you an opportunity to get it down ice and in the offensive zone. It's a part of the game that sometimes people overlook, but if you can get the edge in the faceoff circle you've got the edge in puck possession."

They'll need it against Ovechkin and the Capitals on Tuesday.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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