WASHINGTON – The Buffalo Sabres are back in the nation's capital to meet the Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals for the second time in seven days at Capital One Arena, and we're all in for another holiday treat if this game is as good as Washington's 4-3 shootout victory was last week.
The game tonight is going nationwide on the NBC Sports Network, with faceoff slated for 7:08 p.m. It will be on the radio as normal on WGR 550.
Here are Five Things to Know about tonight's game:
1. The lineups: The Sabres did not take a morning skate today and Phil Housley will brief the media around 4:30. The Caps did take the ice at their practice facility in Arlington, Va. The goaltending matchup tonight figures to be Carter Hutton vs. Caps starter Braden Holtby, after backup Pheonix Copley beat the Sabres here last week.
Based on practice here Thursday, Buffalo may be getting defensemen Jake McCabe and Lawrence Pilut back in the lineup tonight. McCabe has missed nine games with an upper-body injury and the Sabres are 3-3-3 since he went down Nov. 29 in Tampa, the game that ended Buffalo's 10-game winning streak.
#Sabres in practice today:
Pilut-Ristolainen, Dahlin-Bogosian, Scandella-McCabe, Guhle-Hunwick, Beaulieu extra with Wilson
— Mike Harrington (@ByMHarrington) December 20, 2018
Caps expected lineup vs. Buffalo:
— Isabelle Khurshudyan (@ikhurshudyan) December 21, 2018
2. Sam I am: The point streak of Sabres winger Sam Reinhart is at a career-best 11 games (5-13-18) – the longest active run in the NHL after Alex Ovechkin's 14-gamer ended for the Capitals Wednesday night against Pittsburgh. If Reinhart gets to 12 tonight, it will be the longest run by a Sabre since Tim Connolly posted points in 16 straight from Dec. 23, 2009 to Jan. 25, 2010.
Jack Eichel (9-5-14) and Jeff Skinner (5-4-9) both have points in seven straight games. A point tonight would give Skinner a career-high streak while Eichel would advance to his longest run since a career-high 11-gamer he posted from Feb. 14-March 7, 2017.
3. The Great Eight Report: Ovechkin leads the NHL with 29 goals, and he's looking to become the first player to hit 30 this season. He's only one goal shy of tying Hall of Famer and former Cap Mike Gartner as the only players in NHL history to begin their career with 14 consecutive 30-goal seasons (Gartner had 15). Ovechkin has 635 career goals, five behind former Sabre Dave Andreychuk for 14th all-time. Ovechkin in 46 career games against Buffalo: 31 goals, 16 assists, 47 points.
4. From the history books: Dec. 21 is a big date in the history of the Sabres-Capitals rivalry. It was 43 years ago today – Dec. 21, 1975 – that the Sabres blistered the second-year Caps, 14-2, in Memorial Auditorium, setting a margin of victory and defeat record that still stands for both teams. Rick Martin had four goals in the game for Buffalo, which set a then-NHL record with an eight-goal third period (the Sabres later broke it with a nine-goal period in a 14-4 win over Toronto in 1981).
Danny Gare also had a five-point night with a goal and four assists. Fred Stanfield (3-1-4), Gilbert Perreault (2-2-4), Don Luce (2-2-4), Jacques Richard (0-3-3), Brian Spencer (0-3-3), Jim Schoenfeld (0-3-3) all had big nights as well. The Sabres outshot Washington, 50-16, in improving to 20-9-4 and dropping the Caps to 3-27-4.
5. Around the boards: After blowing leads in all spots Tuesday against Florida, the Sabres are now 14-2-4 when scoring first, 11-2-2 when leading after the first period and 9-1-2 when leading after the second period. Tuesday's loss was their first of the season in regulation when leading after 40 minutes. ... The Caps are 5-0 in the first half of back-to-backs and this opens another as they play Saturday in Ottawa. The Sabres are 4-2-1 in the first game of back-to-back sets and 4-1-2 in the second game so far this season. They host Anaheim Saturday in KeyBank Center. ... Caps defenseman Brooks Orpik, the former East Amherst resident, will miss his 24th straight game with a knee injury. He took the morning skate in a non-contact jersey.