NHL Preview from The Sports Network|
Saturday, April 2nd
(All times eastern)
Buffalo Sabres (39-29-9) at Washington Capitals (45-22-11), 7 p.m.
(Sports Network) - As the Washington Capitals close in on a fourth straight
Southeast Division title, the Buffalo Sabres are continuing to strengthen
their case for a postseason spot of their own.
The Sabres gun for their fifth victory in six games this evening as they visit
the hard-charging Capitals and the Verizon Center.
Buffalo is 5-1-1 in its last seven games and three of their past four
victories have come by way of a shutout. While Ryan Miller recorded the first
two whitewashes, an upper-body injury forced him to miss Wednesday's home
meeting with the Rangers.
That mattered little thanks to Jhonas Enroth, who made 23 saves to record his
first career shutout, a 1-0 triumph over New York.
"I was confident that we would play well in front of (Enroth). I was confident
that he would play well," said Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff.
Miller, who suffered his injury when he absorbed a hard shot from Toronto's
Dion Phaneuf on Tuesday, is day-to-day and questionable for tonight.
Tim Connolly had the lone Buffalo goal, a power-play tally in the second
period that helped the Sabres pull into a tie for seventh place with the
Rangers in the Eastern Conference standings. Both teams have 87 points and
Buffalo will use its game in hand over New York tonight.
The Sabres and Rangers are also three points ahead of the ninth-place
Hurricanes, who also have a game in hand over New York and visit the Islanders
tonight. Buffalo will then visit Carolina on Sunday.
First, the Sabres will try to prevent the Capitals from winning for a 14th
time in their past 17 games. Washington is 4-1-1 in its past six, including
Thursday's 4-3 overtime triumph against Columbus.
With 101 points, the Capitals are six points ahead of the Lightning for first
place in the division with four games left to play to Tampa Bay's five. Still,
Washington can clinch the division this evening with a victory and a Lightning
regulation loss to Minnesota on Saturday afternoon.
Former Blue Jacket Jason Chimera had the overtime-winner on Thursday, while
John Carlson, Mike Knuble and Jason Arnott also scored. Michal Neuvirth made
20 saves as the Caps won for the sixth time in their past seven home games.
"It's nice to get that one in," said Chimera, who played four-plus seasons in
Washington could be shorthanded on the blue line tonight with John Erskine
suffering an undisclosed injury against Columbus. He is questionable for
tonight, while Dennis Wideman is out indefinitely due to a hematoma in his
right leg sustained against Carolina on Tuesday.
For Buffalo, forward Jochen Hecht sat out his team's last game and has missed
10 of the past 14 games with an upper-body injury.
Washington, which also trails Philadelphia by one point for the top seed in
the East, is 2-0-1 versus Buffalo this year, winning two straight after an
overtime setback in western New York back on Nov. 13.
The Capitals have won seven of their past 10 overall against the Sabres as
well as three straight and four of their last five at home versus the club.
Also of note, veteran referee Bill McCreary will officiate his last NHL game
tonight, the 1,737th of his career that includes his debut on Nov. 3, 1984
when the Capitals hosted the Devils at the Capital Centre in Landover,
McCreary, regarded as one of the game's best ever officials, is second on the
league's all-time games-refereed list.
04/02 11:27:58 ET