Tonight is the night when most of the hockey world will focus on the Sabres vs Capitals game tonight in the Verizon Center. Buffalo and Washington come into tonight's game tied for 8th place in the Eastern Conference with 84 points. Winner takes lone possession of 8th place. Let me say this before I go any further. THE LOSER OF THIS GAME WHETHER IT BE BUFFALO OR WASHINGTON IS NOT OUT OF IT. With that being said whatever team walks away with the two points will feel pretty good going into the final 5 games.
The Sabres come in on a 4 game winning streak after wins over Tampa Bay, Montreal, Rangers, and Minnesota last week by a combined score of 17-5. The Sabres have found the scoring touch with the Ennis line rolling and Cody Hodgson finding is comfort zone. Hodgson has had at least two points in 3 of the last 4 games.
The Caps come in continuing their roller coster season, last week they got smoked by the Hawks, rolled the Wings in Detroit, gave up a 3-0 lead for a OT loss to Winnipeg at home, lost to the Flyers in a shootout, and beat Minnesota 3-0 on Sunday. The consistentcy in the last week has come from Alex Ovechkin, he is red hot and has 9 goals in his last 7 games. Sabres will need to wrap him up tonight to have a chance for two points.
On the injury front for Buffalo PK36 will return to the lineup tonight resulting in Travis Turnbull being returned to Rochester. Turnbull was impressive in his first NHL call up with a goal in NY and bringing the physical play. Nathan Gerbe was cleared to play, but with only one practice under his belt since his injury he will sit out until Friday against the buzzsaw known as the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Caps will be without Nik Backstrom tonight, but he has been cleared for contact and it is believed he will play again before the regular season ends. Vokoun is still out with an injury meaning young Brayden Holtby will get the cage tonight allowing one goal in his last two starts.
Miller obviously in goal for Buffalo.
Dale Hunter will roll with the same lineup he used against the Wild dressing 11 forwards and 7 D-men, allowing for Ovechkin to be double shifted and be on the ice for 50% of the game. Buffalo will try to counter with Robyn Regehr and Andrej Sekera to hold on AO. Although with Ovechkin being double shifted the other two pairs will need to be on their game and take away time and space.
The first goal tonight will be huge if the Caps get up early the crowd will get into the game and if Buffalo gets on the board early they could quiet the rackus house of red. All in all should be a battle and tons of fun to watch. Gotta love the NHL playoff race/playoffs.
How about some playoff motivation...