NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Wednesday, March 3rd (All times eastern)
Washington Capitals (41-13-8) at Buffalo Sabres (33-19-9), 7 p.m.
(Sports Network) - It's safe to say that Alex Ovechkin didn't get the results he was looking for in the recent Winter Olympic Games. He'll now get back to chasing his first Stanley Cup championship.
Ovechkin and the NHL-leading Washington Capitals take the ice for the first time in over two weeks this evening versus Olympic tournament MVP Ryan Miller and the Buffalo Sabres at HSBC Arena.
Ovechkin returned to the Capitals earlier in the week after his Team Russia failed to medal in Vancouver, losing to eventual gold medal-winning Canada in the quarterfinals. Ovechkin had two goals and two assists over four games in the tournament, but leads the NHL with 89 points and a plus-43 rating. He is also tied with Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby for the league lead in goals with 42.
The break seemed to come at the right time for Washington, which went 0-1-2 over its final three games after winning 14 straight. The Caps lead the NHL with 3.92 goals per game, but allowed 27 tallies over their last six contests.
"I think we've been giving up too many goals," defenseman Tom Poti told Washington's Web site. "We need to concentrate more on our team defense and less turnovers at both blue lines. We need to get the puck in more and not try to make so many fancy plays. We need to peak at the right time."
Despite their recent struggles, the Capitals lead the NHL with 90 points -- one more than the San Jose Sharks -- and own a 26-point advantage over the Atlanta Thrashers for first place in the Southeast Division. Washington has won each of the last two division titles.
Ovechkin will likely square off tonight versus Miller, who was named the MVP of the Olympics after leading Team USA to a silver medal. He posted 36 saves in Sunday's loss to Canada in the championship match and ended with an American Olympic record 1.35 goals against average, as well as a .946 save percentage and 5-1 record.
Miller gave up the game-winning goal to Canada and Crosby in overtime and wasn't given a chance for redemption by head coach Lindy Ruff last night. The Sabres were in Pittsburgh on Monday, but Patrick Lalime got the start in goal in a 3-2 setback. Still, Miller earned a round of applause from the Penguins' fans upon introduction.
Lalime allowed three goals on 28 shots while Toni Lydman and Derek Roy both scored for a Sabres team that lost for the seventh time in their last eight games (1-5-2). However, they still trail the Ottawa Senators by just one point for first place in the Northeast Division.
"I think after two weeks the competitive level was real high," said Ruff. "I don't think we were able to match [the Penguins'] level. We need more guys to move their feet more. We got that late, but it wasn't enough."
Miller should return to the net tonight and is second in the NHL with a 2.16 GAA and .930 save percentage. He posted a 35-save shutout at home over the Capitals back on December 9, but he also lost two games in Washington around that victory.
He is 10-5-0 with a 2.59 GAA lifetime versus the Capitals, who have lost eight of their last 10 in Buffalo.
Jose Theodore should start tonight for Washington and was on the losing end of Miller's shutout in his only outing versus the Sabres this season. Theodore is 9-13-1 with a 2.85 GAA in his career against Buffalo.
03/03 10:39:55 ET