It's another afternoon game for the Buffalo Sabres, and they hope to avoid more matinee madness when they meet the Washington Capitals today in a 3:05 start in KeyBank Center. The Caps are just 1-1-2 in their last four games while Buffalo is 1-2-1.
Here are Five Things to Know about today's game:
1. Chad Johnson will be in goal for injured Robin Lehner
The Sabres announced earlier today that Lehner has a lower body-injury and is listed as day to day. Chad Johnson will get the start today.
"It's just one of those things that's built up and he's just taking a day off today," coach Phil Housley said of Lehner during his pregame briefing this afternoon. "It's just a day-to-day thing but we thought it was important he should rest for today."
Johnson (4-9-3, 3.48/.888) has won three of his last four starts after going more than three months between victories. But in his last five appearances, he's 3-1, 2.33/.921
"He's really controlling his rebounds well, there's not a lot of wasted movement in net," Housley said. "He's squared to the puck, letting pucks hit him, doing a good job on his angles and he's really given our team confidence when he's been in net."
Linus Ullmark has been called up from Rochester to serve as the backup. Speaking of backups, the Capitals are going with Philipp Grubauer in goal, as starter Braden Holtby is slated to face Tampa Bay on Tuesday night. Grubauer is 5-7-3, 2.65/.914.
2. Ovechkin's response
None of the Caps had a good night during Saturday's 7-1 stinker in Chicago. But Alex Ovechkin's performance was particularly pungent, as the Washington superstar was held without a single shot attempt for the first time in his career.
"When you don't have a game that you feel that you've produced, usually the next one you've got a little bit of a burr," Caps coach Barry Trotz said today. "You're a little more determined. ... I'm hoping for a real good response."
That's bad news for the Sabres. Ovechkin is a point-a-game player in his career vs. Buffalo with 43 points in 43 games (27 goals, 16 assists). Ovechkin leads the league with 34 goals and enters today tied for 10th in scoring with 65 points.
"He's one of the best all-time scorers in the league history," Housley said. "He's a heavy player. we're going to have to be aware of that line when they're on the ice, make the right decisions, not give them any easy things and make them earn everything."
3. Coaches have a reunion
Housley's NHL coaching career began when was hired as an assistant in Nashville in 2013 by then-Predators coach Trotz, who was looking to add a former defenseman on his staff. Both coaches were working late after practice here Sunday and had a good catchup session.
"We had a lot of laughs together in Nashville and he'll do a real good job with the young core here," Trotz said. "With every situation -- and I'll just speak from my own -- when you come into a new organization and new mindset of what you're doing, it takes a while to get implemented and established. There's a lot of factors, from injuries to your leadership corps. I think he's got a real good plan going forward longterm for the Sabres fans and the team. He'll do a real good job with them."
Housley made sure to congratulate his old boss on coaching in his 1,500th NHL game Saturday night. Trotz is fifth on the all-time list.
"It's a great feat on his part. He's a gentleman and a very classy guy," Housley said. "The way he approached the game and his preparation was really solid. Look at teams he had early on in his coaching career, they were a bunch of hard workers. He got them to play hard and play a good system."
4. A trade is made
No, not involving the Sabres. Fooled you for a second.
A couple of hours before today's game, the Capitals have acquired defenseman Michal Kempny from Chicago for their third-round pick in this year's draft. Kempny, 27, had a goal and six assists in 31 games this season. He was signed by the Hawks last year out of the KHL and should help a Washington defense group playing rookies Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey.
"We got to see him a little bit the other day and he's a real good skater, a little more of a veteran player," Trotz said. "His first pass is good, he got to pass the puck against us a lot the other night. He just goes in the mix and we think he's going to help our 'D' ".
5. Numbers games
Winger Nick Baptiste is back in the Sabres' lineup today and Jordan Nolan is a scratch. Baptiste has scored in two of his last five appearances ... The Caps fell out of first place in the Metropolitan Division for the first time since Dec. 30 when Pittsburgh beat Columbus Sunday night to improve to 16-4-1 in its last 21 games. Washington has 73 points, one back of the Pens, and three games in hand entering today. ... The Sabres beat the Caps here, 3-1, on Nov. 7 and are looking for consecutive home wins against Washington for the first time since 2011-12. ... Buffalo better get ahead in this one: The Caps are 19-0-1 when leading after one period and 23-0-3 when leading after two.