Series (Game 3 of 4)

Washington leads 3-1

Game 1: Wednesday, November 25th
Game 2: Wednesday, December 9th
Game 3: Wednesday, December 23rd
Game 4: Wednesday, March 3rd

Sabres 2

(22-11-3, 47 pts)

Capitals 5

(23-8-6, 52 pts)

7:00 PM ET, December 23, 2009

Verizon Center, Washington, District of Columbia

1 2 3 T
BUF 0 2 02
WSH 2 1 25

Top Skaters

Buffalo: T. Connolly - 1 G, 6 SOG, +2

Washington: A. Ovechkin - 1 G, 2 A, 5 SOG, +1

Sabres-Capitals Preview


The Washington Capitals haven't had much trouble scoring goals this season -- at least when they're not facing Ryan Miller and the Buffalo Sabres.

The Capitals look to win back-to-back games for the first time in two weeks and cool off the visiting Sabres on Wednesday night in a matchup of division leaders.

Washington's 130 goals are the most in the NHL and the biggest reason it leads the Southeast Division and is second in the Eastern Conference. The Capitals (22-8-6) have 50 points through 36 games, the fastest they've ever reached that plateau.

Buffalo (22-10-3), meanwhile, boasts one of the NHL's top goaltenders in Miller, who's 21-7-2 with a league-low 1.89 goals-against average. His performance has the Sabres atop the Northeast Division and third in East after missing the last two postseasons.

"We've improved this year," Miller said. "We've been in some tight games and been able to come through."

Miller and the Sabres came through in a 3-0 home win over Washington on Dec. 9. The goaltender made 35 saves for his fourth shutout, and the only time the Capitals have failed to score this season.

Miller is 10-4-0 with a 2.42 GAA lifetime against the Capitals, but lost 2-0 at Washington on Nov. 25, when Alex Ovechkin scored and Semyon Varlamov made 25 saves for the Capitals.

That win improved Washington to 2-0-1 in its last three home meetings with the Sabres, but continuing that success may be tough. Led by Miller, Buffalo has allowed two goals or fewer in 13 of its last 15 games.

Miller made 34 saves in a 3-2 overtime win at Toronto on Monday, Buffalo's sixth victory in eight contests.

"Ryan's our rock out there," said Derek Roy, who had a goal and an assist to give him five points in his last six games.

Roy had two assists against the Capitals earlier this month.

Buffalo may need Miller and Roy to play well again. Thomas Vanek, the team leader with 10 goals, will miss his third straight game because of an abdominal injury.

Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau challenged Ovechkin after a lackluster first two periods Saturday at Edmonton. Washington's star responded by scoring twice and adding an assist in the third as the Capitals rallied for a 4-2 win.

"The reason he is the best player in the planet is that instead of going, 'Woe is me, why is the coach yelling at me?' he took up the challenge and said, 'I'll show you' and got three points and led us to the victory,' said Boudreau, whose team has alternated wins and losses in six games since winning six in a row Nov. 25-Dec. 7.

The two-time reigning NHL MVP, Ovechkin has three goals and six assists in his last five games, but believes he needs to give a more complete effort.

"I'm not happy how I played even if I scored two goals," Ovechkin said. "That's not how I want to play."

Ovechkin has played well against the Sabres, with 12 goals and seven assists in 17 career games.

After sitting out Saturday's contest, Jose Theodore could be back in net for Washington. Theodore is 9-5-4 with a 2.94 GAA this season and 9-13-1 with a 2.85 GAA lifetime against Buffalo.