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Chad Dedominicis The Hockey Writers

Published on Friday, December 9, 2016

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Preview: Sabres Getting Healthy as Capitals Visit

The injury story has followed the Buffalo Sabres throughout the entire season thus far. It started with Jack Eichel the day before the season started and got to the point of eight players who were expected to play on a nightly basis missing games with injuries. At times the team was down their top two centers and three of their top-six defensemen.

There may now be light at the end of the injury tunnel. It appears that they’ll be getting back some players ahead of their third meeting with the Washington Capitals tonight. After missing 13 games, Dmitry Kulikov will be making his return to the blue line, along with Josh Gorges after he missed three games. Nic Deslauriers also appears to be making his return to the lineup after being out 19 games, but unclear which forward will come out in place of him.

The one downside of the Gorges and Kulikov’s return is that it will end Brendan Guhle’s time with the big club. He’s on an emergency recall from Prince George of the WHL. According to the rules of the recall, Guhle will have to return back to his junior club with Sabres defense group now getting healthy. The 19-year old showed very well in his three games and it’s a shame he can’t stay with the team. His smooth skating has caught the eyes of fans, but rules are rules.


Washington Capitals at Buffalo Sabres

KeyBank Center – 7 p.m. EST

Broadcast channels – MSG-B and CSN-DC

2016-17 Season Series: November 25 – Capitals 3 – Sabres 1December 5 – Capitals 3 – Sabres 2 (OT)

December 5 – Capitals 3 – Sabres 2 (OT)

Washington Capitals – 15-7-3 – 33 Points

Road Record: 5-3-3

Hot Players: Marcus Johansson and Nicklas Backstrom

Key Injuries: Matt Niskanen

Projected lines:

Forwards

Marcus Johansson – Nicklas Backstrom – TJ Oshie

Alex Ovechkin – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Justin Williams

Andre Burakovsky – Lars Eller – Jakub Vrana

Daniel Winnik – Jay Beagle – Tom Wilson

Defense

Karl Alzner – John Carlson

Brooks Orpik – Dmitry Orlov

Nate Schmidt – Taylor Chorney

Goaltender

Philipp Grubauer

Buffalo Sabres – 10-10-6 – 26 Points

Home Record: 5-5-3

Hot Players: Evander Kane, Rasmus Ristolainen, and Kyle Okposo

Key Injuries: Zach Bogosian and Tyler Ennis

Projected lines:

Forwards

Evander Kane – Jack Eichel – Sam Reinhart

William Carrier – Ryan O’Reilly – Kyle Okposo

Marcus Foligno – Johan Larsson – Brian Gionta

Nic Deslauriers – Derek Grant – Matt Moulson

Defense

Rasmus Ristolainen – Jake McCabe

Cody Franson – Dmitry Kulikov

Justin Falk – Josh Gorges

Goaltender

Robin Lehner


Game Notes

1) The Sabres blew a third period 2-1 lead on Monday night against the Capitals to lose 3-2 in overtime.

2) Buffalo is 5-3-2 in their last ten games and have picked up seven of a possible ten points since Eichel returned from injury. The Capitals come in 6-3-1 in their last ten games and have won two straight in overtime.

3) Rasmus Ristolainen has played at least 29 minutes in his last three games. Over those three games, he’s registered four points, including the game-winner in overtime against the Oilers on Tuesday.

4) Evander Kane has found his scoring touch since Eichel has returned. Kane has three goals in his last three games, one of which was a big game-tying goal with 29 seconds remaining on Tuesday night.

5) Robin Lehner will draw back into the crease tonight. He has only one win in his last five starts but has played well with a .937 save percentage and 1.6 goals against average during that stretch. Lehner will need to start to put some wins up as the chatter for the backup goaltender Anders Nilsson to get more starts is getting louder.

6) With two points tonight the Sabres can pull within five points of the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. They’d also move within four points of third place in the Atlantic division.


Although the Sabres have been picking up points as of late they haven’t moved very much in the Eastern Conference standings. They have a lot of teams to jump over with the hole they dug themselves to start the season. They’ve failed to pick up wins against teams their chasing, including the Capitals earlier this week. If they want to start to gain on clubs ahead of them picking up two points in regulation tonight would be a good start. The three point game has loomed large around the league so far this season.


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