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Sabres game day: With Sweden trip near, focus turns to facing Capitals

Matchup: Buffalo Sabres (9-2-2) vs. Washington Capitals (9-2-3)
Where: Capital One Arena
When: 7 p.m.
TV: MSG
Radio: WGR 550

Montour close: Brandon Montour, whom Buffalo acquired at the trade deadline last February, is not in the lineup Friday night against Washington but will be evaluated Saturday morning in hopes of playing against the New York Islanders on the second night of a back-to-back.

Montour, 25, recorded a career-high 35 points, 10 with Buffalo, last season. He hasn't played in a game since suffering a hand injury during a preseason loss at Columbus on Sept. 17.

The plan was for Montour to not play in a back-to-back. Having him sit Friday will allow one more day of preparation for a possible regular-season debut.

[Related: Caps rooted for Nats as World Series buzz surrounds Sabres' trip to D.C.]

Sabres' lineup: Goalie Linus Ullmark will start Friday night against the Capitals. Otherwise, the Sabres' lineup will remain the same. John Gilmour will remain on defense and Evan Rodrigues will play on Casey Mittelstadt's wing.

Marking corrections: The Sabres were finally able practice back-to-back days Wednesday and Thursday. That allowed Krueger to put his players through a series of drills that focused on skill development and gave his coaching staff an opportunity to analyze what the Sabres need to correct ahead of their second back-to-back of the season.

Special teams seem to be trending in the right direction. The Sabres have scored a power-play goal in three of their last four games and the penalty kill has held opponents to 1-for-11, though the goal against occurred Monday night against Arizona.

Krueger's focus was likely on the Sabres' play in the defensive zone. Their coverage was spotty against the Coyotes, resulting in at least 40 shots allowed for the second consecutive game. Buffalo won't be able to play as loose defensively against the Capitals, who led the NHL with 21 points entering play Thursday.

Washington also had the most goals scored (53) and ranked sixth on the power play. This back-to-back could be tricky, though. The Sabres are preparing to leave Sunday for their trip to Sweden. Jack Eichel told reporters Thursday the goal is to not overlook the Capitals or Islanders.

"Guys are excited about it but we do have four points to get here, which is the most important thing right now," Eichel said. "They're going to be four hard points, two tough opponents and it's a great chance to show our maturity right now. Take care of business first. We're so excited about our trip and looking forward to going overseas, but we have to take care of this first."

Capitals injuries: Evgeny Kuznetsov participated in the Capitals' morning skate and is expected to play against the Sabres. Nic Dowd, on the other hand, did not skate, which forced Washington to recall forward Liam O'Brien from Hershey.

Goalie Braden Holtby, who has a .911 save percentage in 14 career games against Buffalo, is expected to start. Here are the Capitals' expected lines for tonight:

Leaderboard watch: With his overtime goal Tuesday in Toronto, Alex Ovechkin became the National Hockey League's 12th-highest goal scorer with 669 during his career. The 34-year-old has been a thorn in the Sabres' side since he was drafted first overall in 2004, scoring 32 goals among 48 points in 48 career regular-season games against Buffalo.

Ovechkin needs 16 more goals to surpass Teemu Selanne for 11th all-time.

With a rare break in the schedule, Sabres return to 'Camp Krueger'

 

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